Can Mac McClung actually make the NBA after winning the dunk contest?

Can Mac McClung actually make the NBA after winning the dunk contest?


As the first NBA Developmental G League player to compete in the All-Star Game slam dunk contest, Mac McClung relishes the opportunities that come with being known as a viral dunker.

But as he gracefully moves through interview after interview as he’s peppered with questions about his starring days in Gate City, a small town in southwestern Virginia, McClung can’t help but feel typecast.

In the same vein as a boy band looking to change their sound but constantly remembering their origins in bubble gum pop, McClung have spent the past six years trying to prove their hardwood abilities are worth it. extend far beyond the dunk clips that put Gate City High on the map.

Mac McClung’s dunk contest show crowns crowd-pleasing All-Star Saturday

“On the one hand, I feel like (being known as the white player who dunks is) something you can only embrace at this point,” McClung said. “But on the other hand, I like basketball more than dunks. And while I can really see why people like to point it out, I’m much more than that, and I think my numbers and my movie in the game show.

During Saturday’s dunk contest, which McClung easily won, TNT’s broadcast team cast McClung as a YouTube novelty, not an actual basketball player.

“Unfortunately for Mac, I think the highlights may be a distraction for some of his colleagues and even some personnel scouts,” said Coby Karl, McClung’s coach with the Delaware Blue Coats. “When you have a preconceived idea of ​​what someone is like before you meet them, most of the time it will impact your opinion. In Mac’s case, it becomes a distraction from who they really are. as a basketball player.

McClung recently signed a two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers after averaging 19.1 points and 4.7 assists with the Blue Coats. But getting people to see him as a basketball player, and not a viral sensation, has been one of the hardest parts of his journey.

The day before the dunk contest, the 6-foot-2 guard led his team to the rising star showcase with 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting to go with two assists and two rebounds in nine minutes.

Three college seasons, split between Georgetown and Texas Tech, saw McClung average just under 15 points, but on the night of the 2021 draft, he fell asleep without hearing his name. After a brief stint with the Chicago Bulls during which he recorded his first minutes and first points as an NBA player, McClung joined the South Bay Lakers, the G League affiliate of the Los Angeles Lakers. In 26 games, he averaged 21.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists, earning G League Rookie of the Year honors as well as a call-up to the Regular Season Finals. of the Lakers. But in the offseason, it was cut.

The Golden State Warriors offered McClung an invite to training camp this season, but waived him in the end.

“I just try to focus on the things I can control,” McClung said. “But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard for me, especially with the Lakers. I was rookie of the year there, we were winning and I was just waiting for a turn that never came. Honestly, it hurts when you feel like you’re doing everything right, but your dreams aren’t coming any closer.

Given McClung’s stardom, his journey to the NBA has been chronicled in a way foreign to most G League players.

But Karl, who faced a similar journey through the pro ranks after playing at Boise State, said many players were in a tricky position: they’ve dominated the G League but also lack the skills. to take it to the next level. or haven’t had the opportunity to prove they can.

“When it comes to an NBA team, 99.9% of the time they already have the guys they want to take the hits and handle the ball,” Karl said. “So while highlights, stats and accolades may move the needle on social media, it won’t necessarily get you out of the G. The question every player in the G League must answer is how they can impact the game from an ancillary role.”

To help show his potential as a complementary play, the Blue Coats moved McClung’s role from player dominating the ball to more ball minutes. After a short period of adaptation, he settled in well.

Delaware is 11-2 in its last 13 games after a mediocre start, and McClung is playing one of the most evenly matched basketball games of his career, shooting 57.6% from the field and 50% at three points.

Sign up for our weekly NBA newsletter to get the best basketball coverage in your inbox

“When we got Mac, we knew he had a great first step, which allowed him to reach the bucket almost at will,” Karl said. “But since we took him off the ball, he’s shown he can be a really good point shooter, which has become one of the most important skills to have in today’s game.”

As a two-way player, there’s no guarantee McClung will play even a second with the 76ers, but getting that opportunity is a necessary step in his journey.

“I’m just a big believer in God’s timing and everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I feel like my story has been a challenge for a reason and I just need to wait my turn. When it’s my turn, I have to be ready. That’s one thing I’m sure of.

Leave a Comment