In a throwback performance that was reminiscent of his days tearing apart the Big Sky Conference in the purple and white, six-time NBA All-Star and 2021 Olympic gold medalist Damian Lillard had the Dee Events Center rocking once again with 3-pointers ripping through the net from deep at the Alumni Classic.
The game has been hosted by Lillard every two years from 2015 to 2021.
“Everybody knows how much pride I take in being a Weber State Wildcat, and being able to put this thing together is important for not just me, but for all the alumni,” Lillard said.
Lillard finished the night with 41 points, 11 3-pointers and four steals while playing all 40 minutes, including almost hitting a buzzer beater for the win.
Despite his impressive performance, Lillard ended up on the losing side of a 93–92 in a Team White victory over Team Purple.
Lillard said the game was a crowd pleaser. “They got a treat tonight,” he said.
Wildcat alum Eddie Gill, who played for the Wildcats from 1998-2000, dazzled in the pre-game festivities, taking the 3-point contest from fellow alum Nic Sparrow by burying 17 threes to Sparrow’s 13.
With multiple generations of former players running the court, friendly trash-talk and airballs were inevitable.
“It’s always a great time getting together with the guys, past and present, and just getting a good run in,” Lillard said.
The two-time Big Sky Conference MVP slammed in his signature one-handed dunk on a fast break, sending the Wildcat faithful into a frenzy with under two minutes to play in the first half.
Lillard took Team Purple into the break holding a 44–38 lead.
During the halftime festivities, Lillard was given a Wildcat varsity jacket at half-court, which he held up to the crowd to commemorate his induction into the Weber State Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s an honor. When I was here, I was always just looking into the history of the program, and all the different eras of players that came through here and had a huge impact,” Lillard said. “So to be in the Hall of Fame is an honor, and I’m thankful that I’m viewed in that light by this university.”
Head coach Randy Rahe also addressed the crowd and thanked everybody for coming out for the special night.
Team Purple looked like they would run away with the victory following Lillard’s bombardment from the 3-point line, which included three-straight from beyond the arc in the second half that put his team up 74–67.
Lillard said the game was a good time. “I’ve been off for two and a half weeks, so coming out here I didn’t want to do too much. I just wanted to chill and have a good time,” he said.
But two-time All Big Sky Honorable Mention Cody John, who played his last season with the ‘Cats in 2020, had other plans for the night.
Lillard and John went back and forth from the 3-point line in a lightning-quick final 30 seconds of awe-inspiring basketball that will go down in Wildcat basketball history.
John scored a three, putting Team White up 93–92 and setting up a potential Dame Time moment.
Through the Dee’s pressurized atmosphere, Lillard dribbled up the court while the final six seconds began to tick off the clock down by a single point.
The entire arena held its collective breath as Lillard jumped and evaded a contesting hand and got the 3-pointer off, but the shot bounced off the rim to end the game.
John finished with 22 points and five treys along with the game-winning bucket for Team White.
Prior to the tip-off, Lillard signed autographs for an hour inside the Dee with a line of fans that grew to eventually wrap almost completely around the arena.
“It’s great any time that you can do something like this and just bring happiness and shine a light on people,” Lillard said.
The giant circle of fans held Lillard’s Portland Trail Blazer and Wildcat jerseys along with posters and his signature Adidas shoes they hoped to get signed by the NBA mega-star.
Lillard’s shown a fondness for Weber State and the city of Ogden by coming back and hosting the alumni game four different times: 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021.
The Oakland, California, native has been busy this summer, leading the Trail Blazers on a playoff run and contributing to Team USA’s fourth straight gold medal, but even amongst all of it, he always makes it a point to come back to his college home.
“It’s a great level of appreciation on my side, because these are the people that had this type of appreciation for me before the rest of the world even knew who I was,” Lillard said.
Lillard spoke at length about his love for Weber State and the city of Ogden, describing memories that flood his mind when he comes back.
When Lillard comes back to Ogden, he reminisces about his first college party and his first tattoo. Lillard reflects back on his growth from 17 to 21.
Lillard stayed after the game and signed more autographs for fans who were on the court and made clear through his actions and words that being a Wildcat is special to him.
“It means something to have Weber State across your chest,” Lillard said.