Mac McClung, now the NBA dunk champ, wasn’t an unknown

Feb 18, 2023, 8:09 PM | Updated: Feb 19, 2023, 10:12 am

Mac McClung of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts after winning the slam dunk competition of the NBA bas...

Mac McClung of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts after winning the slam dunk competition of the NBA basketball All-Star weekend Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mac McClung was not exactly an unknown.

Long before he won the dunk contest at NBA All-Star Saturday, he was a YouTube phenomenon. It’s impossible to add up all the views that videos of McClung — everything from dunks to documentaries — had gotten, but it was in the hundreds of millions.

Yet it all seems different now, after this 6-foot-2 boyish-looking guard from a small town in Virginia with trampolines for legs and only two NBA games on his resume became the league’s dunk champion and finally brought buzz back to an event that had been more criticized than celebrated over the last few years.

“He saved the dunk contest,” Shaquille O’Neal said, and countless others echoed those sentiments.

Time will tell if they’re right. But an event that is designed to create unforgettable moments — Michael Jordan taking off from the foul line, Vince Carter saying “it’s over” after a dunk, Aaron Gordon jumping over the Orlando Magic mascot, Dwight Howard donning the Superman cape — got a massive shot in the arm from a guy who now has more dunks in the contest (four) than he does in actual NBA games (one).”It’s a cliche, but you can really do whatever you want to do,” said McClung, who is on a two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers and playing in the G League. “I’ve had so many people even at the highest level … if you are a young kid, and someone who is an inspiration to you, someone that you respect so much tells you that you can’t do it, it doesn’t matter. Literally, if you manifest and put your mind to it, you can literally make your life and reinvent yourself every day.”

The reactions from NBA players watching the show, both in Salt Lake City and elsewhere, were amazing.

“Tough,” Cleveland guard Donovan Mitchell shouted as he watched courtside, while several other All-Stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo — with his mouth open in disbelief — filmed the action on their phones.

Golden State’s Stephen Curry said on Twitter: “Man was a viral (House of Highlights) high school dunk phenom, still working his way to the League, but lemme go get that dunk contest trophy right quick and bring it back to life!!! Unreal.”

McClung knows he is an underdog story. He grew up playing football and baseball in Gate City, Virginia, before deciding sometime around sixth or seventh grade — standing barely 5 feet tall at that point — that basketball would be his priority.

He started going viral in high school for his array of dunks, and he has handled all the attention that comes with internet fame as well as he can for years.

“One thing with this game is you have to learn how to adapt,” McClung told The Associated Press last year. “I want to be known as someone who can help a team, help a championship team, be a good energy guy and a good culture guy and a good locker room guy.”

So if he was an unknown to NBA fans, that’s maybe understandable. He had the final basket of the 2021-22 NBA season, breaking free for an uncontested reverse dunk to cap the Los Angeles Lakers’ overtime win over the Denver Nuggets last April. That was his third, and most recent, field goal in the NBA.

But, even if he hasn’t gotten to establish himself at the NBA level yet, there’s no question that he can play. He broke records held by Allen Iverson and J.J. Redick in high school. He had big numbers at Texas Tech and Georgetown in college.

And now, he’s a dunk champion. He’s viral, again. Maybe this time the NBA door will open.

“I’m not really worried what other people think, good or bad,” McClung said. “I’m just staying the course. My goal is to make an impact in the NBA, and I’m just going to keep working until that happens.”


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Mac McClung, now the NBA dunk champ, wasn’t an unknown