Lillard wins NBA three-point title; Unheralded McClung is dunk king

SALT LAKE CITY (AFP) — Portland's Damian Lillard won the Three-Point Contest and unheralded Mac McClung captured the Slam Dunk Contest crown on Saturday, Feb. 18, at NBA All-Star Game weekend festivities.

Mac McClung of the Philadelphia 76ers dunks the ball during the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest as part of 2023 NBA All Star Weekend on Saturday, February 18, 2023 at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AFP)

Seven-time NBA All-Star Lillard, a member of the US Tokyo Olympic gold medal team, was a college star at nearby Weber State, adding to his joy at winning the long-range shootout in his third attempt.

"It makes it that much more special," Lillard said. "They say the third time is the charm and I'm happy that it happened here. It's a perfect situation. I'm happy I could do it in my homecoming here to Utah."

The shocker came in the Slam Dunk Contest when McClung, called up from the developmental G-League by the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the week, captured the dunk crown with a perfect score in the final.

"It's great. I'm truly blessed and grateful to the NBA for giving me this opportunity," McClung said. "I don't get surprised by things like this but I'm very appreciative."

The 6-foot-2 (1.88m) guard from rural Virginia had played only four NBA games but from his high school days was known for acrobatic dunks and after accepting the trophy from Julius Erving vowed to defend his crown, something few NBA stars do.

"If you'll have me I'll be back," McClung said.

McClung added his name to a history of dunk champions that includes Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant.

Among past 3-point champions were Larry Bird, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

"The best shooters in the history of our game, most of them have one of these," Lillard said of the 3-point trophy. "To be in this competition a few times and not have one, I just wanted to get it done at least one time.

"I'm happy I got it. Now I can retire from it."

Tyrese Haliburton and 2020 3-point contest winner Buddy Hield, both of the Indiana Pacers, joined Lillard in qualifying for the final. It was Lillard who shot last and eliminated Boston's Jayson Tatum and Utah's Lauri Markkanen.

Hield began the final with 25 points but Lillard sank his last four shots from the left corner to score 26. Haliburton missed eight of his first 10 shots and finished third on 17.

McClung marvels crowd

McClung had the only perfect score on the first round by leaping over a man sitting on another man's shoulders, tapping the ball on the backboard and making a reverse dunk.

"It was great," he said. "Getting my first dunk down felt really good."

McClung had the crowd roaring again with a 360-degree mid-air spin and slam to set the stage for the final.

Going for the trophy against Trey Murphy of New Orleans, McClung began by grabbing a ball being held aloft, then lifted it up, brought it down and made a reverse slam dunk.

His capper came when he donned his high school jersey from Gate City, ran to the hoop, did a 540-degree spin and made a reverse jam for a perfect score that made the crowd erupt and sealed his triumph.

The Utah Jazz trio of Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton and Walker Kessler won the Skills Challenge, consisting of passing, shooting and a relay course.