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That’s who Mac McClung is — show stopper revives Dunk Contest

SALT LAKE CITY — When it first leaked Mac McClung was in the Dunk Contest, the reaction from casual basketball fans and plenty of people on talk shows was, “who? and “Why are they putting a G-Leaguer in the biggest show on Saturday night?”

Here’s why.

Mac McClung isn’t just the 2023 Slam Dunk Contest champion — although he is that too, he rocked the building and left NBA All-Stars courtside slack-jawed. More than that, he’s the underdog story of the guy who could, the guy from Gate City, Virginia (a town of 2,034) who believed in himself and put in the work, and when he finally got his chance he grabbed it with both hands — while repping his Gate City High School jersey.

“It just kind of feels ever since the beginning I was the underdog, even when I was younger,” McClung said. “But just like I was saying, kind of just proving yourself right and not others wrong is kind of more brings a little more satisfaction. So I just kind of looked at it that way.”

Although, when he threw down that last dunk — a 540 that he said he was missing the day before — he wasn’t shying away, looking like Vince Carter declaring it was over.

“I think something took over me, I don’t know that was but you know, I wouldn’t really even thinking the moment it was just kind of just something that happened to be honest with you,” McClung said.

McClung also put in the work before this contest, researching past Dunk Contest and professional dunkers with videos up on social media. He said he and his friends bounced ideas off each other and he had eight dunks in his pocket for the night — enough to come back next year and defend his crown.

For McClung, it’s back to work on the rest of his game as he tries to turn the two-way contract the 76ers just signed him to into a chance to have more than a cup of coffee in the NBA.

McClung had to work for this. He just edged out the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy III in the Finals, who would have won it in a lot of recent years. Murphy was impressive from the start, using Pelicans teammate Jose Alvarado with the steal, then lobbing off the glass for his first dunk of the night.

Murphy also had an impressive combo tomahawk into windmill dunk.

But this night belonged to the underdog and Mac McClung. People will remember his name now.