Three-time NBA slam dunk contest winner discusses constant rise and fall of event, previews 2024 competition


Mac McClung put the NBA slam dunk contest back on the map last year with his stunning performance, and perhaps the best performer ever in the event expects McClung to do it again.

Nate Robinson knows exactly what it takes to win the competition, being the only three-time champion ever.

Standing at just 5-foot-9, Robinson put his name among some of the greats, like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, in winning the event, getting some bonus points with his 46-inch vertical leap and his small frame.

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Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks goes up for a dunk in the NBA slam dunk competition during NBA All-Star Weekend at the Toyota Center Feb. 18, 2006, in Houston. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

McClung stands at just 6-foot-2, but it’s no secret he’s the favorite.

“He’s gonna win it again,” Robinson told Fox News Digital in a recent interview.

McClung is one of four contestants, but only one of those players, Jaylen Brown, is an NBA All-Star. Jacob Toppin and Jaime Jaquez Jr. are the other two competing.

The slam dunk contest used to draw huge names. Jordan and Dominique Wilkins’ late ’80s matchup remains maybe the most famous of all.

But in recent years, high-profile stars have refused to participate. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade passed on the opportunity despite the former even once committing to it. And even high-flying players like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant have passed.

That led to some “boring” competitions for several years until Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon “stole the show” in 2016, Robinson said. 

Nate Robinson dunking over Dwight Howard

Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks leaps over Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic in the finals of the slam dunk contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend at US Airways Center Feb. 14, 2009, in Phoenix, Ariz.   (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Brown is the first All-Star since DeAndre Jordan in 2017 to compete in the event. Since 2015, only three All-Stars have been in the competition.

“They don’t do it in their early years. LeBron didn’t do it. Zion should’ve did it early on. Ja Morant definitely should’ve did it his rookie year. He should’ve did it his first year just to get everybody behind him and get the young ones coming up in the league,” Robinson said. 

“I don’t know who their (representatives) are, but if they were to talk to a guy like me, I would’ve talked them into it.”

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That must be why Robinson has been appointed AT&T chief dunk officer for the contest.

“They’re having me do a lot of stuff behind the scenes, stuff for the dunk contest for fans to engage. You might see some cool faces pop up, you never know. So, stay tuned,” Robinson said.

“Guys like myself, Vince Carter, if we had a commercial dunk van of all the previous dunkers with their best dunks, I can write this s— up and make it so dope. But they don’t want to do it. I don’t know.”

Nate Robinson dunk contest

Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks attempts a dunk during the slam dunk contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center Feb. 13, 2010, in Dallas, Texas. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

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The athleticism in the NBA has reached new heights. So, for Robinson, it doesn’t matter what names are in the contest. It’s still going to be an awesome show.

“I’m so excited to see who’s out there, what these guys are gonna bring to the table. I’m excited. I just hope that they make their dunks, and they do something we’ve never seen before.”

The contest tips off Saturday night after the skills competition and 3-point contest.

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