As we mentioned earlier this week in our New Orleans Pelicans’ guide to All-Star weekend, Trey Murphy III would be the team’s lone representative for All-Star Saturday, participating in the day’s main event – the 2023 AT&T Slam Dunk Contest. And man, did he help make sure the competition lived up to its billing.
However, when we created our guide for this weekend, we didn’t factor in the possibility that Murphy might call upon the services of a Pelican pal to assist him with a dunk.
And it looks like neither did the audience, as the 2023 Rising Stars Game MVP Jose Alvarado – better known by some as Grand Theft Alvarado – surprised the entire arena by sneaking up behind Murphy to pickpocket the ball, only to drive to the rim and throw it off the glass to help the second-year dunkster execute his first jam of the evening.
The panel of judges – comprised of Harold Miner, Karl Malone, Jamal Crawford, Lisa Leslie, and Dominque Wilkins – were not nearly as amused, giving him an average score of 46.6 (the second-lowest score of all the first dunks).
Far from discouraged, Murphy asked the crowd what they would prefer to see next, “tomahawk or windmill.” With the spectators being equally interested in seeing him do both, the answer to his original question was left unclear. So, Murphy decided to combine elements of both in his next dunk – cocking the ball back 180 degrees like a half windmill and then finishing with a reverse tomahawk slam.
A 49.4 average score from the judges gave him the second-best score of the round and more importantly, the second-best scorer overall. The stage was now set. Murphy versus the surprise powerhouse Mac McClung in the final round of the final event on All-Star Saturday.
Remember as a kid when you were practicing dunks on your driveway on your eight-foot rim? Anytime you tried a self-oop, you would always, repeat always, need to let the ball bounce on the oop before catching it and attempting to finish. There’s no way you could catch it in the mid-air and still have the hang time and coordination to pull off the dunk. Right?
For his third dunk of the night, Murphy made our younger selves look like mince meat, pulling out the self-oop with no bounce on a ten-foot rim. Not the eight-foot one in your driveway.
After securing an average score of 48.8, Murphy was in prime position to emerge a dunk champion. All he needed to do was punctuate his evening with one more banger.
To accomplish this feat, Murphy decided to end his night the way slam dunk legend Vince Carter started his nearly 23 years ago to the day, with a thunderous 360-degree windmill.
An average score of 49.2 giving Murphy a final round total of 99 out of 100. That means it would take a near-perfect score on both of his adversary’s dunks to beat him. Only the most venerable of opponents could stop him from hoisting the trophy and joining the ranks of the great dunkers that won the contest before him.
The aforementioned McClung proved to be just the match. While Murphy was dazzling the crowd with an array of slams that perfectly blended the novelty of props, hang time, and old-school homages, McClung was putting on a show of his own, tallying scores of 50, 49.8, and 50 on his first three dunks.
But even with his strong trio of flushes, McClung would need to compel an average score of 49.1 or higher from the judges if he was going to beat Murphy. McClung needed to find a way to pull one more rabbit out of the hat.
And unfortunately for our beloved Murphy, McClung saved his best for last.
Not only did that finisher warrant the 49.1 he needed, but a perfect 50 score, his third such output of the night. Ladies and gentlemen, Mac McClung is your 2023 AT&T Slam Dunk Champion, with Murphy finishing admirably in second-place and Jericho Sims and Kenyon Martin Jr. finishing third and fourth, respectively.