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Howard returns to Slam Dunk event at NBA All-Star Game

Former Slam Dunk Contest champion Dwight Howard, NBA All-Stars Damian Lillard and Trae Young and Toronto’s Pascal Siakam are highlight entrants into the All-Star Saturday Night festivities announced Tuesday by the league.  

The 35th Slam Dunk event, 34th 3-Point Contest and 17th NBA Skills Challenge will top festivities on February 15 in Chicago on the eve of the 69th NBA All-Star Game.

Eight-time All-Star Howard, who returns to the contest after 11 years, won the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk crown with a series of innovative dunks that included donning a Superman cape for one slam jam spectacle.

The 34-year-old Los Angeles Lakers center, who helped the US team capture 2008 Olympic gold at Beijing, will compete against Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton and former dunk contest runners-up Aaron Gordon of Orlando from 2016 and Derrick Jones Jr. of Miami from 2017.

The last time the Slam Dunk event took place in Chicago was in 1988, when hometown star Michael Jordan won his second title in a row in a dazzling display that edged out Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins.

Defending champion Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets will try to become the first back-to-back 3-Point Contest winner since Jason Kapono in 2007-2008.

He will be challenged by Portland’s Lillard and Atlanta’s Young, who will test their skills from beyond the arc before playing in the All-Star showdown the next night.

Five-time All-Star Lillard ranks third in NBA, scoring at 29.8 points a game and second in 3-point hoops with 192, while Young — fifth in league scoring at 29.2 points a game — has made 156 3-pointers in 46 games after making the same number over 81 games last season.

The field for the two-round, timed shooting competition also includes Washington’s Latvian forward Davis Bertans, Charlotte’s Devonte Graham, Chicago’s Zach LaVine, Sacramento’s Buddy Hield and Miami’s Duncan Robinson.

Cameroonian playmaker Siakam of the defending champion Toronto Raptors is among five All-Stars in the Skills Challenge, an obstacle-course competition testing agility, passing, dribbling and 3-point accuracy.

Other All-Stars in the event include defending Skills Challenge champion Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, Miami’s Bam Adebayo, Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis and Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton.

Also in the field are past champions Patrick Beverley of the Los Angeles Clippers, Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets and Derrick Rose of the Detroit Pistons.

Beverley, the 2015 winner, is a Chicago native, as is Rose, who won in 2009 as an NBA rookie and later became the 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player while competing for Chicago.

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