Mac McClung: Savior of the Dunk Contest, or Just Another Fluke?

Since its inception in 1976, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest has been a revered display of athleticism awaited by fans at every All-Star Break. Except for some inexplicable reason, over the past five years, the Contest has gone noticeably downhill.

The Contest recently has been unable to attract big names, leading to lackluster displays of mediocrity in what was once a setting where players like Julius Erving would display revolutionary new feats of athleticism. Recent winners—Hamidou Diallo, Derrick Jones Jr., Anfernee Simons, and Obi Toppin, to name a few—have gone on to rarely be heard from throughout the rest of their careers. In fact, a Dunk Contest Champion has not come back as a repeat participant since Zach Lavine put on two incredible displays in 2015 and 2016, leading to back-to-back Dunk Contest titles.

When it was announced that Mac McClung, the newest 2-way signing of the Sixers, was participating in the 2023 Contest, few fans expected this trend to change. Although McClung has been seen throwing down monstrous dunks in highlight reels, having a player who spends half of his time in the G-League as a headliner is hardly a way to attract viewership.

This all changed the night of the dunk contest when McClung blew out the competition with athletic feats the Contest hasn’t seen in years. McClung scored perfect fifties on all but one of his judge scores throughout the contest, an act other participants simply couldn’t keep up with.

Stars throughout the league are still reacting to McClung’s spectacularly unexpected performance.

“He definitely saved the dunk contest,” said Shaquille O’Neal, a dunk connoisseur in his own right. O’Neal brings up the burning question that has been on everyone’s minds: is McClung what it takes to return the Slam Dunk Contest to its former glory?

It’s hard to say, but what’s for certain is that McClung put up the best Dunk Contest performance we’ve seen in years. It goes without saying that the world hopes that McClung does not end up as another has-been like the champions of recent years. For now, fans of the Contest can only hope he returns again next year.