NBA underdog Mac McClung revives Slam Dunk contest with spectacular performance

A triumphant Mac McClung celebrates his spectacular victory. Credit: AP

The NBA’s slam dunk contest has fallen out of popularity in recent years – failing to attract big stars and receiving a lukewarm reception from fans.

However, this year was different, as a rising star Mac McClung gave the competition a much needed shot in the arm with a spectacular display in the finals.

Spectators in Salt Lake City were delighted as the Philadelphia 79ers’ guard pulled off a 540-degree dunk – a move more reserved for figure skaters and skateboarders than basketball players.

That was his third perfect score of the night out of four dunks, by which point it was clear who the night’s winner was going to be.

He could be heard saying “it’s over” as a euphoric crowd of supporters surrounded him on the court. His final score was 100.0, against New Orleans' Trey Murphy III’s 98.0.

McClung, 24, has only played two NBA games and has suddenly become one of the sport’s most popular players following his performance on Saturday night.

He signed a two-way contract with the 79ers last week, meaning he wouldn’t have to stop playing for Delaware Blue Coats, in the NBA’s developmental G-league.

Philadelphia would become his third NBA team, and he hasn't even played for the 76ers yet. He played in one game last season for the Chicago Bulls, one other game for the Los Angeles Lakers.

McClung has been credited with single-handedly reviving the NBA Slam Dunk contest. Credit: AP

McClung, 6ft 2, was the first G-league player to compete in the Slam Dunk contest - a move which Phoenix Suns superstar Kevin Durant said was “crazy”.

However, after pulling off three perfect score dunks to win, McClung’s right to compete was well and truly proven.

"Ever since the beginning, I was the underdog,” said McClung, who put on a Gate City jersey – in homage to his high school and hometown in Virginia - for the final dunk.

"Proving others right instead of others wrong brings a little more satisfaction."

NBA players watching the show reacted with amazement, with Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks pictured filming the action on the courtside with his mouth open in disbelief.

Asked about McClung’s performance while walking through the tunnels inside Vivint Smart Home Arena, basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal said: “He saved the dunk contest.”

His sentiments were echoed by NBA great Magic Johnson, who tweeted: “Mac McClung has personally saved the slam dunk contest with his performance tonight!! He put on a show!”

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