Boyish and Caucasian with a mop of sandy blond hair, Mac McClung looks like a second-year law student in a southeasterly state who might piss away a Saturday playing beer pong at his girlfriend’s family’s beach house on Kiawah Island. He does not look like a professional basketball player, and he certainly does not look like one of the most electrifying dunkers on the planet.
But that’s exactly what the 6’2” McClung, who played the bulk of his college ball at Texas Tech, is. A highlight reel of his high school dunking exploits has been viewed over a million times on YouTube. Its title: “Best White Dunker EVER?!”
McClung is a 24-year-old combo guard for the Delaware Blue Coats, the G-League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s had a couple cups of coffee in the NBA with the Lakers and Bulls, and he recently signed a two-way deal with the Sixers that could theoretically lead to a call-up. And during All-Star Saturday in Salt Lake City, he’ll be favored to win the league’s annual Dunk Contest.
When FanDuel opened its Dunk Contest market earlier this week, McClung was assigned odds of +250 to win, level with New Orleans’ Trey Murphy III but trailing the +240 favorite, Kenyon Martin Jr. of the Houston Rockets. By Thursday morning, McClung was the +230 favorite, and by Thursday afternoon, he’d been bet down to +150, with Knicks center Jericho Sims next in line at +280.
During a Thursday chat with The Athletic’s Shams Charania, McClung, looking all of about 16 in a backward snapback, revealed that he planned to attempt “at least two dunks that I know have never been done in any contest.”
76ers’ Mac McClung previews his NBA Slam Dunk Contest: “There’s at least two dunks that I know have never been done in any contest.” McClung sits down with @Stadium to discuss dunk contest preparation, rejecting significant overseas deals to pursue NBA dream, more: pic.twitter.com/I46P0fji9s
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 16, 2023
McClung, who will go up against three players standing 6’7” or taller, will have the “little guy” card working in his favor. While it’s rare for players 6’2” and under to enter the contest, when they do compete, they often prevail. To wit, 5’9” mighty mite Nate Robinson won a record three Dunk Contests, while Spud Webb, Dee Brown, and current All-Star Donovan Mitchell also walked away winners.
Even rarer than the occasional Lilliputian leaper is the white dunker. Brent “Bones” Barry, who won the contest in 1996 while playing for the Clippers, remains the only Caucasian ever to claim the crown, much to Thunder Dan Majerle’s chagrin.
Late line movement inevitable
As has been the case in recent years, the two All-Star squads will be selected by the top vote-getter in each conference — in this case, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Unlike in years past, however, James and Antetokounmpo will select their squads shortly before tipoff, at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, sort of like fifth-graders did back before it was considered emotionally cruel to pick a kid last.
Despite the fact that the loyalties of just two participants are known at this juncture, Team LeBron is a 2-point favorite at FanDuel and DraftKings, with FOX Bet setting the spread at 2.5. Expect those odds to fluctuate in the minutes before the first jump ball, with each passing pick.
“Team LeBron is favored currently because he has the first pick and has won the All-Star Game as captain,” explained John Ewing, a data analyst for BetMGM, which has Team LeBron priced at -125 on the moneyline. “We will adjust the odds based on draft picks.”
Antetokounmpo is a 6/1 favorite at FanDuel to be named the game’s MVP, trailed closely by James and Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard at 7/1. Lillard is also a +425 co-favorite (DraftKings) with Pacers sharpshooter Buddy Hield in what looks to be a wide open 3-Point Contest. There, the consensus longshot is Julius Randle (+950 at FanDuel), who was named as a late fill-in for Lillard’s injured Portland backcourt mate, Anfernee Simons.
Photo: Mary Kate Ridgway/NBAE via Getty Images