Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard is known for his 3-point bombs from the logo and tapping his wrist to indicate it’s Dame Time when he goes on a scoring binge in any given game.
But around Utah, Lillard is also known for his time at Weber State University and how much respect he still has for his alma mater and Ogden. At the NBA 3-point shootout on Saturday night, Lillard paid homage to the school that helped turn him into a first-round draft pick by wearing his college jersey during the event at Vivint Arena.
Then he won the whole thing.
Lillard beat out finalists Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield, both of the Indiana Pacers, for the 3-point crown. Perhaps appropriately given his last-second career heroics, it was Lillard’s final shot, a 2-point moneyball, that sent gave him the total needed to beat Hield.
The Wildcat alum talked about how special it was to compete as an All-Star in Utah.
“I think anytime an All-Star Weekend is in a place where somebody connects with that place, I think it’s important to pay homage and to acknowledge that,” he said. “The fact that I lived here for four years, went to school here, like I said, I met so many friends and so many people that I still interact with and deal with on a personal level here, and just what I’ve laid down in this area, on the Wasatch Front, I think it was just perfect. It was perfect to be able to do that.”
Jazz All-Star Lauri Markkanen was also part of the eight-man field — he, too, was eliminated by Lillard, but in the contest’s initial round. Markkanen finished tied for fourth, with Boston’s Jayson Tatum. Both had a score of 20 points.
Markkanen found that he was more successful in his practice rounds on Friday than under the bright lights of the contest itself.
“Yesterday, I was consistently hitting 28 points,” Markkanen said. “My best one was 34, but I knew it’s gonna be different than the competition. So 25 was a number I had in mind, and then probably 30 to be the winner. So that was the goal that I had.”
That being said, Markkanen also promised to do the 3-point contest again, if he’s offered the opportunity.
The winner, Lillard, came from Oakland to Ogden and played for the Wildcats from 2008-12 and still comes back each summer to host an alumni basketball game on campus. That’s why Lillard said his seventh All-Star game feels like coming home.
“The people that I run into I met when I was 17, and they’re looking at me and I’m almost twice the age that I met them at. It’s pretty cool,” Lillard said. “... Yeah, it does. It feels like a homecoming. I feel like if it was in Oakland, I would feel this way.”
Like Larry Bird famously did on the way to winning one of his three 3-point contest victories, Lillard walked into the 3-point locker room at Vivint Arena and told his competitors that he’d be winning the whole thing.
“I told them, ‘I’m winning tonight,’” Lillard said. “Everybody kind of laughed, and I told them, ‘I’m serious.’”
Clearly, he was.