SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mac McClung might have single-handedly restored the shine on a dunk contest that has been widely panned in recent years.
McClung, the 6-foot-2 Philadelphia guard on a two-way contract, defeated New Orleans’ Trey Murphy III in the finals of the dunk contest, culminating an NBA All-Star Saturday that may have finally answered the question as to whether what used to be the league’s signature event can be glitzy again.
McClung had the answer: Absolutely.
“I’m truly blessed and grateful for the NBA giving me this opportunity,” McClung said.
A 540-degree dunk — not a 360, but a 540, him doing one-and-a-half rotations in the air, a move more reserved for figure skaters and skateboarders than basketball players — was his third perfect score of the night out of four dunks. By the time the judges’ scores came up it was already decided. Everyone in the building knew he’d already won.
“It’s over,” McClung said.
It was. And he immediately committed to defending his title at Indianapolis at All-Star Saturday next year.
“If you guys will have me, I’ll be back,” McClung said.
The final score, not that it mattered, was McClung 100.0, Murphy 98.0.
His is an unbelievable story: McClung has played mostly in the G League, where he ranks 36th in scoring this season at 19 points per game. He was undrafted in 2021 after spending three college seasons at Georgetown and Texas Tech. He was signed by Golden State last year but never played in a regular-season game for the Warriors, and spent a little time on USA Basketball’s World Cup qualifying team last year as well.
“Ever since the beginning, I was the underdog,” said McClung, who put on a Gate City jersey — his high school and hometown in Virginia, population 1,600 — for the final dunk. “Proving others right instead of others wrong brings a little more satisfaction.”
Philadelphia would become his third NBA team, and he hasn’t even played for the 76ers yet. He played in one game last season for the Chicago Bulls, one other game for the Los Angeles Lakers.
He has three NBA baskets.
He had four dunks on Saturday night. A guy with more dunks than actual NBA field goals might have saved the dunk contest.
“Give this man his flowers, man,” TNT commentator Kenny Smith said.
McClung set the tone for the night with a dunk that had NBA superstars in disbelief — he leaped over two people, took the ball out of the hands of one of them, tapped it on the backboard and then threw down a reverse slam.
And that was just for starters.
Riding the momentum of that perfect dunk, he wound up hoisting the trophy that was newly renamed for dunking legend — and former 76ers star — Julius “Dr. J” Erving.
“I’m super happy,” McClung said.
McClung was nearly perfect on his second dunk as well; four judges gave him a perfect 50, Lisa Leslie gave him a 49 as the only dissenter, but it didn’t matter — he was already assured a spot in the final round against Murphy.
New York’s Jericho Sims gave himself a 50 on his second dunk, where he attached an envelope to the net, pulled it down after the dunk and displayed “50” to the world. No judge agreed, and his two-dunk score of 95.4 wasn’t good enough to make the final round.
Also eliminated after Round 1: Houston’s Kenyon Martin Jr., with a score of 93.2.