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The Elevation of Mac McClung

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
He’s known for going viral with his highlight-worthy dunks, but Mac McClung has earned plenty of other accolades — on and off the court. Boardroom catches up with the Dunk Contest champ.

Mac McClung is no stranger to the spotlight.

The hooper that began going viral in high school due to his bouncy bunnies and ridiculous dunks has had eyes on him for some time now. At Gate City High School in Virginia, McClung was not only racking up millions of views with his highlight yams, but breaking state scoring records held by one of the game’s greats: Allen Iverson.

A few stops in college followed by a couple of stints in the G League led McClung to the Delaware Blue Coats — the Philadelphia 76ers‘ affiliate — for the 2022-23 campaign. Coming off a season in which he was named the 2021-22 G League Rookie of the Year, the 6-foot-2 combo guard averaged 19.8 points and five assists per game this season while helping the Blue Coats win the 2023 G League Championship.

While it’s likely many didn’t catch that title game, nearly everyone in the basketball world saw McClung show out February in Salt Lake City in during the Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend. Though the event has received criticism in recent years due to a lack of innovation and household names, McClung was a breath of fresh air with his high-flying throw-downs — some of which have never been seen in the competition before. Players, coaches, and fans were all locked in on the 24-year-old, with some watching in disbelief as he had Vivint Arena rocking.

Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Reggie Miller went as far as saying, “Mac McClung has saved the Dunk Contest.”

Since that high-flying Saturday night, McClung’s portfolio has grown dramatically. These days, he’s kicking back and watching the NBA Playoffs while teaming up with AT&T — the official 5G innovation partner of the NBA — to participate in the NBA Dunk Pool. What that means is simple: For every dunk in the NBA conference finals, AT&T will contribute $5,000 (five Gs, if you will) to a “dunk pool.” Entrants can then claim a $50 credit from that pool to be used at the NBA Store website.

Like his corporate partner, McClung has been answering the call all year long, from All-Star Weekend to a G League title. Right on cue, Boardroom recently chopped it up with Mac to talk about the playoffs, his hometown of Gate City, and what’s next for him in his young career.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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GRIFFIN ADAMS: No slowing down for you in the offseason. Talk about the AT&T NBA Dunk Pool and how this partnership is going.

MAC McCLUNG: I’m so excited to be a part of the AT&T Dunk Pool. They’re the official partner of the NBA and the Slam Dunk [Contest], so I think it made sense. … Dunking is what kind of brings us all [together]. Either side we’re cheering for, we love to see the dunk and how many dunks there’s gonna be. I’m so excited to see how much they donate and how many dunks actually happen in this conference finals.

GA: Speaking of the playoffs, what are your thoughts on the first two rounds?

MM: It’s been really interesting. I think this year was a year that I really felt like it was open for any team, and that’s really fun to follow. Of course, we wanted the Sixers organization to be there and unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But yeah, I’m excited, man. There are a lot of fun teams to watch, fun players to watch.

GA: You were part of a Sixers G League team — the Delaware Blue Coats — that took home the league championship, with you playing a huge part in that. What was that experience like with that team?

MM: It was awesome. It was a grind. The G League, as we know, is a lot of players trying to make it to the league, but our team and group really came together as one family and kind of put our pride aside, and we came and won it. You know, it’s a G League championship, but a championship at any level is special and it takes a special group to do that. I was just so proud of my guys and we had a great time with it.

GA: With the 76ers having locked up their seeding for the postseason, you were able to play in two NBA contests to close out the regular season. How was that?

MM: It was so much fun, man. It was just a long year that you finally got the chance to kind of show your stuff and I was so excited. I love playing basketball at the highest level, so it was the most fun day I’ve had in a while and I’m glad it turned out well.

GA: As you mentioned earlier, getting to the league can be a grind. Was there one specific moment you can recall where it just clicked for you, maybe telling yourself, “Yeah, I can hang with these guys?”

MM: It was a gradual buildup, but I think this summer was huge for me in Summer League, and then being with the Warriors and being around those guys. And as my stints have come and I’ve got to play pickup, I just really believe in myself. I know who I am and know I can help a team win, and my confidence is full with that. So, really just waiting on the opportunity and the right timing, God’s timing, and I’ll be ready when that’s called.

GA: As a high flyer, casual fans may see you as solely a dunker, but your 20-9-9 stat line against the Nets in April proves otherwise. What part of your game do you think has grown the most?

MM: I mean, it’s hard. I don’t ever play trying to prove something to someone else. You just watch one game and I think you would know I’m not just a dunker. And there are numbers, statistics, all that you could look at, but I’m not really looking to prove anything to anybody but myself and the team that wants me. I’m really just focused on myself in that situation and I feel like that’s what’s helped me grow, really not worried about the outside noise in any way.

GA: Speaking of outside noise, there was plenty surrounding All-Star Weekend this year where you stole the show at the Dunk Contest. How have things changed for you since?

MM: My schedules have changed a lot. I think [it’s] just adjusting to having something to do all the time, and I think, you know, just a little bit more of being known where I’m at and stuff. If I’m in the airport or if I’m somewhere just eating or something, my life has changed a lot in that. So, just adjusting to it, and it’s no problem. It’s all a blessing.

GA: Another big thing that came out of All-Star Weekend was your partnership with Puma. What is your relationship like with the company, and what sets Puma apart in your mind?

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

MM: My relationship with Puma is great. They took a chance on me. There were some other brands that took a chance on me, but they were the brand that I was most interested in that took a chance on me. They’ve taken care of me and my family in the greatest ways. From top to bottom, they have a great, classy business. I got a lot of love for Puma and always will.

GA: Do you have a favorite shoe that you wore during the season? Or is there a favorite for you that you like to stick with?

MM: Yeah, right now, I like the TRC Blaze. It’s my favorite right now. I like the Puma Nitro, that’s the one I was wearing for the dunk contest. But there are so many I haven’t tried out that I have to try out. That’s just what I kind of stuck to this season.

GA: No matter what you’ve done in your young career, you seem to never forget your roots. What does it mean to have the support of your hometown of Gate City, Virginia and the community there?

MM: Man, I can’t even put it into words. I’m just a lucky dude to be from where I am in the community that supports me and they’re watching all the games and they’re so invested. It’s not just my hometown, but the surrounding areas. I want to give them credit as well just for really just supporting me and coming home to that is so cool. I can’t explain it; just the people you grow up with and something good happens in your life and you get to celebrate with them, and there’s nothing cooler than that.

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

GA: Switching gears a bit here, the San Antonio Spurs just locked up the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, giving them the chance to select Victor Wembanyama. Have you seen much of the hyped prospect?

MM: I’ve seen some highlights. I haven’t watched a game or anything, but I mean, just seeing his structure and all his potential. I mean, man, there’s no ceiling for him and I hope everything goes well for him. I wish him the best. I think he’s gonna be an incredible player.

GA: What’s the next step for you in your career? What are your goals?

MM: A lot of things, man. First I want to get to the NBA, and I believe I will in God’s time. But, really, I like to be secretive about my goals and just keep ’em in my own manifestation. But no, I got a lot of big goals, man. I really do. I believe in myself and that’s all credit to my family and all the people who have helped me.

GA: Real quickly before you go: Are you superstitious at all? Any pre-game rituals?

MM: I really used to be super superstitious about everything — like what underwear I was wearing, what I had to wear, the same socks. Then eventually, I was like, “What am I doing? Let me get my life together.” I actually saw a player that — I won’t say his name, he’s a great NBA player — and he was so superstitious. I was like, “Man, this can’t be good.” I kind of realized this is what I’m doing, too. It’s like, just be your best self every day and prepare yourself that way, but don’t worry about what socks you’re wearing. You know what I mean? I’d catch myself mad if I couldn’t find my socks. That was enough of that. So no, I’m not anymore.

GA: Anything else you’d like to add about the AT&T Dunk Pool as we wrap this up?

MM: It’s a great, collaborative relationship because we’re both focused on just creating deeper connections to fans and communities. I’m super happy to be a part of this. I feel like we align in a lot of ways and I’m just super excited, man. I can’t wait to watch how many dunks happen and that’s so cool that they’re donating “5Gs” for every dunk. Super excited about that and can’t wait to watch.

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