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Utah father, son given free tickets to NBA All-Star Game after chance encounter
DRAPER, Utah — A father and son from Draper, Utah, got the surprise of a lifetime this weekend.
Ryan Young took his son, Stockton, downtown for the NBA All-Star activities. The pair had tickets to the G-League game at the Huntsman Center and planned on heading to downtown Salt Lake City afterwards to be part of the action. They didn’t have tickets to the big show Sunday night.
The Youngs are huge basketball fans. Stockton is named after John Stockton, and one of their daughters is named Sloane, after former Utah Jazz coach, the late Jerry Sloan. Stockton is a sophomore on the basketball team at Corner Canyon High School, which, he told KSL TV, is having its best season since the school opened.
So, when the two made their way to Salt Lake City Sunday, they had a “spring in their step,” ready to enjoy a day of star gazing at the game’s great. They were having a great time. At the G-League game, they saw Shaquille O’Neal. It was a thrill for Ryan and Stockton.
“One of the greatest players of all time and he’s 20 feet away from me,” Stockton said.
After leaving that game, they caught a bus to head to the Salt Palace and the hotels where the players were staying. This is when the day took a turn they never expected. There was a young family at the bus stop looking for some directions.
“Dad, wife and a young son,” Ryan said. “They said, ‘Hey, can you help me get to the Hyatt? We’re not from around here.’”
The Youngs were happy to help another basketball-loving family. The groups started exchanging “small talk,” mainly about basketball. The woman asked Ryan and Stockton if they had tickets to the game. They told her they didn’t. They would love to go, but it’s a little too expensive. Still, they were excited about being part of the excitement and the festivities.
“They kind of whispered to each other, then started texting,” Young said of the other couple. “She said, ‘Would you want to go to the game?’ And we’re like, ‘Sure, but we don’t have tickets.’”
Ryan said the woman then dropped a bomb.
“She goes, ‘What if I could get you tickets?’ And she’s like, ‘Let me call my son’s agent.’”
Turns out, Ryan and Stockton were talking to the family of Mac McClung, the 2022 NBA G-League Rookie of the Year, who won the dunk contest the night before.
Here's your winner with a nearly perfect dunk contest.
Mac McClung scored a perfect 50 on three of the four dunks to take home the trophy.
What a show from Mac. #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/OgGO1WRF7I
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) February 19, 2023
The Youngs couldn’t believe it.
“We both kind of exploded,” Ryan said. “We’re like, ‘Ya, we know Mac McClung. Everyone knows who Mac McClung is, and they’re so humble.”
After the bus ride, the groups exchanged phone numbers and went their separate ways. The Youngs thought that might be the end of their brush with fame, and even if that’s where it all ended, the Youngs were grateful. And their afternoon was full of star basketball sightings. But around four, Ryan got a text.
“My dad gets a text from his (Mac’s) mom that says, ‘Check your email.’ And we both like, lose our minds,” Stockton said. “No way this is happening right now.”
“I pull it up,” Ryan said. “Two tickets to the All-Star Game in my email. Of course, we’re like blown away.”
The Youngs said the game was one of the greatest experiences of their lives, all thanks to a humble mom of a basketball star.
“It was just the greatest experience probably of my life I would say,” Stockton said.
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