Who is Mac McClung? The former high school phenom breaks out as the slam dunk champion at NBA All-Star Weekend

Mac McClung was considered a somewhat odd choice to officiate Saturday’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest. The young guard has only played in two NBA games, neither of which have happened this season. When his attendance was announced, fans even mocked the league for failing to attract bigger stars to the once-proud event.

Well, nobody’s laughing now. McClung stole the show with one of the best slam dunk performances in recent memory. Four attempts. Four dunks. Three direct hits. A trophy. In one night, a player many viewers had never heard of managed to join the ranks of Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and Michael Jordan in the history books of dunk competition.

But who is? Let’s dive into the life and career of G-Leaguer slam dunk champion Mac McClung.

Why was McClung even here?

McClung may not have proven himself as an NBA player, but his credentials as a dunker are well known. He began dunking while playing for Gate City High School in Virginia and quickly became an internet sensation in the process. McClung entered the All-Star Weekend with 821,000 followers on Instagram, more than double the number of three other competitors (Trey Murphy III, Jericho Sims and Kenyon Martin Jr.) combined.

But Saturday wasn’t even in McClung’s first dunk contest. In 2018 he competed in the Ball is Life All-American Dunk Contest. You won’t be surprised to hear that he won the event in style, defeating Kevin Porter Jr., current Houston Rockets guard, as well as Shareef O’Neal, son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. to win the trophy.

As word of McClung’s dunking exploits spread, he collected recruiting material. He was always more than a dunker, but his scoring tally skyrocketed in his last two high school seasons. After averaging 29 points per game as a junior and 47 points as a senior in the Virginia State Championship Game, he left Rutgers and chose to play for Patrick Ewing at Georgetown.

Sounds great, so what happened?

McClung’s tenure at Hoyas produced mixed results. Statistically, McClung made an immediate impression, averaging over 13 points per game as a freshman. While a 19-14 record is hardly newsworthy by Georgetown standards, there seemed to be plenty of promise in his second season as well.

But the Hoyas went 15-17 in McClung’s sophomore season, scoring 16 points a game. He missed 11 games and in hindsight it was clear that the two sides were not enthusiastic about the partnership. McClung declared himself for the 2020 NBA draft before pulling his name and announcing a move to Texas Tech. According to his agent, McClung was looking for a role that Georgetown just wasn’t giving him.

“The feedback he got from (NBA) teams was that they wanted to see him moderate more,” Daniel Hanzen told the Washington Post at the time. “More of a point guard role, etc. I’m not saying he couldn’t have gotten that in Georgetown, but he didn’t show that in Georgetown. He didn’t get a chance to really show that. He was playing the ball.”

Ewing recruited a guard-heavy roster in Georgetown that left everyone unsatisfied. Another starter in Ewing’s backcourt, James Akinjo, also made a switch after the 2019/20 season. But if McClung expected to become a more traditional point guard at Texas Tech, he was likely disappointed with the results. His assists average dropped from 2.4 to 2.1 per game as a Red Raider. After a season at Texas Tech, McClung put his hat back in the NBA ring.

I take it he wasn’t drafted?

Correct. Three uneven college seasons forced McClung to take the long road to the NBA. He signed a Summer League contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021, impressing them enough in Las Vegas to get a two-way deal but was eventually quashed and signed to a G League contract. He averaged nearly 20 points per game at South Bay but was only called up for one NBA game with the Lakers in December 2021. In April 2022, he was signed for a single game with the Chicago Bulls. Neither team re-signed him, and he was a free agent again. He made a brief appearance with the Golden State Warriors in the team’s preseason games in Japan last October, but didn’t stay there either.

He then ended up with the Philadelphia 76ers. Or more specifically with their G-League partner: the Delaware Blue Coats. His score went down, but when he had to prove himself as a playmaker, it was mostly at the G-League level. He has averaged 5.8 assists per game over his two seasons in the G League. His rebounds picked up, too, and apparently the 76ers were impressed enough to give him a glimpse of NBA level. On Tuesday, they signed him to a two-way deal that will allow him to play for Philadelphia for the remainder of the regular season if needed.

So what happens now?

Well, over the next few days, McClung will return to either Delaware or Philadelphia, depending on the 76ers’ needs. He will spend the next two months switching back and forth between the two. This offseason, he will be a free agent and likely seek more permanent employment with an NBA team. Otherwise, he’ll likely accept another two-way or G-League deal.

But if you’re worried about the last time you saw McClung, rest easy. Once he accepted the trophy, he confirmed that if the NBA wants him to compete in next season’s dunk contest, he will accept the invitation and said he was ready to step up.who wants“Compete with him. Given the show he put on in front of the crowd on Saturday, he’s likely to face stiffer competition next time. Zion Williamson even mentioned that he is thinking about participating next season.

No matter who he faces, McClung will enter the 2024 Dunk Contest as a far more famous man than he did on Saturday. He’s not just a G-League player anymore. A star was born on Saturday, and he might not relinquish his dunking championship for years to come.

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