You’d be forgiven for not having known Mac McClung — or even about Mac McClung until yesterday. A certifiable journeyman who played for Georgetown and Texas Tech and twice declared for the draft, he found himself naturally drifting to the G League after failing to land a home in the National Basketball Association. He bounced around in the minors, during which time he latched on to 10-day contracts with the Bulls, Lakers, and, currently, the Sixers. To argue that he’s on the fringes of casual fans’ interests would be an understatement.
Not anymore. On All-Star Weekend, McClung made such an impact that he’s now liberally viewed as the player who saved the Slam Dunk Contest. And, what’s more, it’s not as if he doesn’t deserve the distinction — not after the show he put on to effectively relegate the other three participants as his supporting cast. He didn’t just make very attempt off the bat; each of his four tries and makes carried a degree of difficulty only the best of the best ever have succeeded in meeting. Why was all and sundry at the Vivint Arena had mouths agape after his gravity-defying feats. Social media exploded, and with ample reason.
To be sure, NBA officials knew McClung to be as good as advertised. It’s why they invited him to spice up the Contest, the first G League player to do so in its annals. His slam-dunking exploits date back to high school, readily available on the Net for those with the initiative to do some research. In doing so, however, they gave away their desperation. When the battlesmoke cleared, however, there can be no discounting the soundness of their decision. Heck, even Sixers general manager Daryl Morey could not help but celebrate his achievement with a tweeted GIF.
Only time can tell where McClung’s brush with celebrity will take him. In any case, he deserves to be feted for rising to the occasion. If he was at all nervous, he didn’t display it. He stood tall, literally and figuratively, at 6’2” — and to a point where Lisa Leslie was being taken to task as the only judge who dared take away a point to ultimately deny him of a perfect score through all four rounds. He even wound up making rightfully indignant followers of the pro hoops scene forget — if for a moment — that disgraced Karl Malone sat as an adjudicator. He deserves his spot under the klieg lights, and no eyebrows will be raised if, no matter the circumstance, he’ll be back next year to liven up the festivities anew.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.