Mac McClung Slam Dunks into the Spotlight

Photo credit to Earl Neikirk on Flickr.

The start of the career of a possible young star has just surfaced into the National Basketball Association (NBA) world this past weekend. Specifically, on Saturday night, Feb. 18, during the Slam Dunk contest. 

The Slam Dunk contest is the fifth event put on by the NBA during All-Star weekend every February. In recent years, there have been lots of opinions floating around by fans and previous players that the event should be replaced or completely removed. 

Many comments have surfaced via Twitter since the 2022 Slam Dunk contest from people such as Dwyane Wade. The former NBA All-Star and possible Hall Of Famer’s tweet reads, “This dunk contest right here… was a solid 6.” Another tweet came from NBA analyst Skip Bayless that reads, “Worst Dunk Contest ever.” 

Fans of the NBA have witnessed iconic Slam Dunk moments in the past couple decades from those such as Vince Carter and Aaron Gordon. While the 2022 contest may have reached an all-time low, there were a lot of reasons for fans to be excited this past weekend when a young man named Mac McClung from Pennsylvania made his name known. 

McClung was a three-star recruit out of Gate City High School who decided to take his talents to Georgetown University for three years and then to Texas Tech University where he graduated in 2021. Shortly after, he decided to enter the NBA Draft where he would end up going undrafted and spending a short amount of time with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. 

This past year, he played in the G-League for the Lakers, which is essentially the level below the NBA where players go to develop and get better. As that season concluded in 2022, McClung was named Rookie of the Year. He then signed a two-way contract to play for the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 14, 2023. 

Just four days later, McClung would make history as the first G-League player to ever participate in a Slam Dunk Contest and win. 

McClung took the world by storm as he had four total dunks that earned him the win as well as the fame. Each dunk is scored out of 50 by five judges, and in three of the four dunks, McClung received a 50 with the fourth scoring him a 49. 

“That was quite possibly the best four dunks I have ever seen,” said Point Loma Nazarene University second-year business law major Dylan Clark. “The fact that this guy is not a consistent player in the NBA yet is what blows my mind the most. The most impressive thing to me is that McClung is only 6 ‘2 “, which compared to the rest of the participants is very short.” 

Without playing a single minute with his new team, he was already receiving national attention from some of the biggest names. One of the most notable comes from Hall of Famer and 27% owner of the Lakers Magic Johnson who went to Twitter to say, “Mac McClung has personally saved the slam dunk contest with his performance tonight!! He put on a show!” 

Second-year business major Nathan Tapia said, “I agree with what Magic Johnson said. I watch the dunk contest every year and this performance by Mac McClung saved it completely.”

This praise from such a big name like Johnson was just a small part of his historic weekend, as he received a $100,000 bonus equal to almost the same amount of his career earnings in the NBA, according to The Sports Daily. Not only did he earn this money, he also announced the signing of a shoe deal with the brand Puma. 

McClung’s performance even captured the attention of those who don’t follow the NBA. 

“I do not usually watch basketball much, but I can just tell that story is going to be a big inspiration for some people,” second-year finance major Jayson Bennett said. “Maybe we could even bring a college basketball dunk contest to PLNU someday!” 

Written By: Trevor Gould