Mac McClung was thought to be a little bit of an odd option to headline the 2023 NBA Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday evening. The 24-year-old guard has performed in solely two NBA video games, neither of which got here this season. When his participation was introduced, followers even mocked the league for failing to persuade larger stars to the as soon as proud occasion.
Well, no one’s laughing now. McClung stole the present with among the best Slam Dunk performances in latest reminiscence. Four makes an attempt. Four dunks. Three excellent scores. One trophy. In one evening, a participant many viewers had by no means heard of managed to affix the ranks of Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and Michael Jordan within the dunk contest historical past books.
But who’s? Let’s dive into the life and profession of Mac McClung, the G-Leaguer-turned Slam Dunk champion.
So why was McClung right here within the first place?
McClung could not have confirmed himself as an NBA participant, however his credentials as a dunker are well-known. He started dunking whereas enjoying for Gate City High School in Virginia, and within the course of shortly grew to become an web sensation. McClung entered All-Star Weekend with 821,000 followers on Instagram, greater than twice as many as three different opponents (Trey Murphy III, Jericho Sims and Kenyon Martin Jr.) have mixed.
But Saturday wasn’t even in McClung’s first dunk contest. In 2018, he participated within the Ball is Life All-American Dunk Contest. You will not be shocked to listen to that he received the occasion in type, beating out present Houston Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. in addition to Shareef O’Neal, son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, to earn the trophy.
As phrase of McClung’s dunking exploits unfold, he gained recruiting inventory. He was all the time greater than only a dunker, however his scoring numbers exploded in his last two highschool seasons. After averaging 29 factors per recreation as a junior and scoring 47 within the Virginia state championship recreation as a senior, he de-committed from Rutgers and determined to play for Patrick Ewing at Georgetown.
Sounds nice, so what occurred?
McClung’s Hoyas tenure produced combined outcomes. Statistically talking, McClung made an instantaneous impression by averaging over 13 factors per recreation as a freshman. While a 19-14 report is hardly newsworthy by Georgetown requirements, there seemed to be loads of promise shifting into his sophomore season as nicely.
But the Hoyas went 15-17 in McClung’s second season, scoring 16 factors a recreation. He missed 11 video games, and after the actual fact, it grew to become clear that the 2 sides weren’t thrilled with the partnership. McClung declared for the 2020 NBA Draft earlier than pulling his title and asserting a switch to Texas Tech. According to his agent, McClung was searching for a task that Georgetown merely wasn’t giving him.
“The suggestions that he received from [NBA] groups was that they needed to see him facilitating extra,” Daniel Hanzen instructed the Washington Post on the time. “Being extra of a degree guard function, and so forth. I’m not saying he could not have gotten that at Georgetown, however he did not showcase that at Georgetown. He did not get the chance actually to showcase that. He was enjoying off the ball.”
Ewing recruited a guard-heavy roster at Georgetown that left everybody unhappy. Another starter in Ewing’s backcourt, James Akinjo, additionally transferred after the 2019-20 season. But if McClung anticipated to turn out to be a extra conventional level guard at Texas Tech, he was probably dissatisfied by the outcomes. His assists common really dipped from 2.4 to 2.1 per recreation as a Red Raider. After one season at Texas Tech, McClung put his hat into the NBA ring but once more.
I take it he wasn’t drafted?
Correct. Three uneven school seasons compelled McClung to take the great distance into the NBA. He signed a Summer League take care of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021, impressed them sufficient in Las Vegas to earn a two-way deal, however was ultimately waived and signed to a G League contract. He averaged practically 20 factors per recreation in South Bay, however was solely known as up for one NBA recreation with the Lakers in December, 2021. In April, 2022, he was signed for a single recreation with the Chicago Bulls. Neither crew re-signed him, and he was a free agent but once more. He appeared briefly with the Golden State Warriors within the crew’s preseason video games in Japan final October, however he did not stick there both.
He then landed with the Philadelphia 76ers. Or, extra precisely, with their G League affiliate: the Delaware Blue Coats. His scoring went down, but when he wanted to show himself as a playmaker, he is largely finished so on the G League stage. He’s averaged 5.8 assists per recreation in each of his G League seasons. His rebounding elevated as nicely, and apparently, the 76ers have been impressed sufficient to offer him a have a look at the NBA stage. On Tuesday, they signed him to a two-way deal that may enable him to swimsuit up for Philadelphia when essential for the remainder of the common season.
So what occurs now?
Well, within the subsequent few days, McClung will journey again to both Delaware or Philadelphia, relying on the wants of the 76ers. He will spend the following two months shuffling forwards and backwards between the 2. This offseason, he can be a free agent and certain search extra everlasting employment with an NBA crew. Failing that, he’ll in all probability take one other two-way or G League contract.
But in the event you’re fearful that you’ve got seen the final of McClung, relaxation straightforward. As quickly as he accepted the trophy, he confirmed that he’ll settle for the invitation if the NBA desires him to take part in subsequent season’s dunk contest, and stated he is able to face “whoever desires to” compete with him. Given the present he placed on earlier than the Saturday crowd, he’ll probably face stiffer competitors subsequent time round. Zion Williamson even talked about that he’s contemplating taking part subsequent season.
No matter who he faces, McClung will enter the 2024 dunk contest a much more well-known man than he was on Saturday. He’s not only a G League participant anymore. A star was born on Saturday, and he won’t hand off his dunking championship for years to come back.
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