LeBron James Sends Strong Message on Underappreciated Ex-Laker on Rise

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Getty LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Mac McClung is emerging as a household name after winning the 2023 Slam Dunk Contest, and the Los Angeles Lakers may regret not hanging on to the guard. McClung had a successful stint with Los Angeles’ G-League affiliate, South Bay Lakers, and played one NBA game for the Lakers during the 2021-22 season. The exciting guard signed a two-way deal with the Lakers in April 2022 only to join the Warriors a little more than three months later.

The Warriors released McClung last October and the former Laker signed a new two-way contract with the 76ers on February 14, 2023. Lakers superstar LeBron James believes McClung belongs in the conversation as one of the greatest dunkers in basketball history.

“He solidified himself as probably one of the greatest slam dunk competitors that we’ve had in the history of the game,” James explained during a February 20 press conference. “Just some of the dunks that he had wasn’t a surprise for me. I’ve been seeing him, obviously, being a high school sensation and seeing him dunk the basketball for quite a while now, so. But some of the dunks that he had was just very unique. His hang time, his swag that he had out there, too, was organic to himself and it was pretty cool.

“You got guys like Vince [Carter]. You got Dominique [Wilkins]. You got MJ. You got Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine and Mac McClung after his performance last night. Some of the dunks that he had could compete with some of the dunks of some of the greatest that ever set foot on that court so it was pretty cool.

Mac McClung’s $100,000 From Dunk Contest Nearly Eclipsed Career Earnings

McClung’s stock is on the rise not only securing a two-way deal with Philly, but the athletic guard also landed an endorsement deal with Puma. According to Boardroom, McClung’s $100,000 prize money from the dunk contest nearly matched his career earnings of $106,000. McClung’s deal with the 76ers is non-guaranteed and the guard will be a restricted free agent this offseason, per Spotrac. Could the Lakers make another run at McClung this summer?

McClung may not possess a lot of NBA experience but the former YouTube sensation flashed during his tenure in the G-League. The elite dunker won the Rookie of the Year award while with South Bay averaging 21.6 points, 7.6 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals while shooting 37.7% from long range during his 27 appearances. McClung also had a strong showing with the Delaware Blue Coats prior to joining the Sixers averaging 19.1 points, 4.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds while shooting a scorching 50% from behind the arc in 18 games this season.

Will the Lakers Regret Not Fighting to Keep Mac McClung?

The attention is nothing new for McClung as the wing became a social media sensation in high school as his dunks went viral. McClung initially attended Georgetown before transferring to Texas Tech. The guard signed with the Lakers in 2021 after going undrafted, and some fans are likely frustrated seeing McClung win the dunk contest in a Sixers uniform instead of purple and gold.

“Yeah, I think social media can be a distraction for a lot of people and my life has kind of been following me, good and bad,” McClung said during an April 11, 2022 press conference. “So, I really don’t take it personally. I just worry about being the best version of myself each day and trying to grow each day in the right direction. Yeah, I’m appreciative for people who support me and appreciate it for people who don’t support me. So, I just kind of stay the course and focus on myself.”

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