Mac McClung soars to slam dunk title at All-Star Saturday
Mac McClung may have single-handedly restored the shine to a dunk contest that has been widely panned in recent years.
SALT LAKE CITY — SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mac McClung may have single-handedly restored the shine to a dunk contest that’s been rampant in recent years.
And Damian Lillard represented his school and his brand and made them both proud.
McClung, the Philadelphia 6-foot-2 guard on a two-way contract, defeated New Orleans’ Trey Murphy III in the finals of the dunk contest, capping an NBA All-Star Saturday that may finally have the question answered whether what was once the flagship of the league can be glittering again.
McClung had the answer: Absolutely.
“I am truly blessed and grateful that the NBA is giving me this opportunity,” McClung said.
A 540-degree dunk — not a 360, a 540, spinning a half in the air — was his third perfect score of the night of four dunks, but by the time the judges’ score came it was already decided. Everyone in the building knew they had already won.
“It’s over,” McClung said.
It was. And he immediately committed to defending his title at next year’s All-Star Saturday in Indianapolis.
“If you guys want me, I’ll come back,” McClung said.
His story is incredible: McClung has mostly played in the G League. Philadelphia would become his third NBA team, and he hasn’t even played for the 76ers. Last season he played one game for the Chicago Bulls and another game for the Los Angeles Lakers.
He has three NBA baskets.
He had four dunks on Saturday night. A guy with more dunks than actual NBA field goals might have saved the dunk contest.
“Give that man his flowers, man,” said TNT commentator Kenny Smith.
McClung set the tone for the night with a dunk that left NBA superstars in disbelief – he vaulted over two people, grabbed the ball from one of their hands, knocked it onto the board and then threw a reverse slam.
And that was just the beginning.
Riding on the momentum of that perfect dunk, he finally hoisted the trophy, newly renamed for dunking legend – and former 76ers star – Julius “Dr. J”Erving.
McClung was also near perfect on his second dunk; Four judges gave him a perfect 50, Lisa Leslie was the only dissenter to give him a 49, but that didn’t matter—he was already guaranteed a place in the final round against Murphy.
New Yorker Jericho Sims gave himself a 50 on his second dunk, where he tied an envelope to the net, pulled it down after the dunk and showed the world “50”. No judge agreed and his two-dunk score of 95.4 was not good enough to advance to the final round.
Also eliminated after Round 1: Houston’s Kenyon Martin Jr. with a score of 93.2.
Lillard, the Portland star, won the 3-point contest by beating Indiana teammates Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton in the final round.
Lillard wore a Weber State jersey with “Dolla” written on the back. Weber State is his college; he plays under the name Dame DOLLA. And when he got the trophy, he was wearing a Blazers warm-up shirt for that moment.
“They say third time is the appeal,” said Lillard, who claimed his first 3-point title in his third attempt at the event. “And I’m glad it happened here. It’s a perfect situation. I’m glad I did it at my house and came back here to Utah.”
Lillard won the final round with 26 points. Hield had 25 and Haliburton had 17.
Lillard played his college games in Ogden, Utah, about half an hour outside of Salt Lake City. And the historic bifurcation of finally getting a 3-point title hadn’t escaped his notice.
“The best shooters in the history of our game, most of them have that,” Lillard said while holding the trophy. “I just wanted to do it once. And now I have it so I can step away from it.”
Haliburton won the first round by 31 points. Lillard had 26 and Hield had 23.
Eliminated in the first round were Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Utah’s Lauri Markkanen, Miami’s Tyler Herro, New York’s Julius Randle, and Sacramento’s Kevin Huerter.
Utah earned a win to open Saturday night’s All-Star.
The Jazz — a roster consisting of Utah players Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler and Collin Sexton — won Saturday night’s Skills Challenge, advancing in two of the three competitions.
“It feels good, especially in front of the home side,” Sexton said.
The Rooks finished second, with Orlando’s Paolo Banchero, Detroit’s Jaden Ivey and Houston’s Jabari Smith Jr. earning 100 points.
“I just had a lot of fun doing it even though we won the L,” said Banchero, who was part of the winning squad for Friday’s Rising Stars games. “It was really fun standing in front of the fans. Skills Challenge, I watched this all the time growing up during All Star weekend. So it was great to be a part of that.”
The Antetokounmpos finished third, with Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Alex Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday – a replacement for injured Milwaukee Bucks teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo – excluded.
The Rooks won the 100-point team relay after setting the best time on a course where the teams used a 35-foot outlet pass, downcourt dribble, a short jumper, a 3-pointer in the left Corner and then had to complete a dunk on the track other end.
Next came the team passing event, which was won by the Jazz – which earned them 100 points – after failing in a series of 35ft outlet passes, 20ft bounce passes and 25ft chest passes at the most accurate were.
It ended with the team shoot event – worth 200 points – where the Jazz prevailed to claim victory.
“We did it for Utah, man,” Clarkson said.
https://www.king5.com/article/sports/nba/mac-mcclung-soars-to-slam-dunk-title-at-all-star-saturday/281-22f2ab90-ad95-42d0-892c-84b41f9a8bb2 Mac McClung soars to slam dunk title at All-Star Saturday