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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

‘Overwhelming:’ How G League Team Handled McClung Mania

  • Delaware Blue Coats call in public relations reinforcements from 76ers.
  • Slam Dunk champ helps sell out Friday night’s game.
Mac McClung G-League
Syndication: Wilmington News Journal

Since Mac McClung electrified the sports world by winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest last weekend, this week has been madness for his Delaware Blue Coats.

The office of Governor John Carney was calling on line one, excitedly offering congratulations.  

The Philadelphia 76ers’ G League affiliate was swamped by hundreds of interview requests from media outlets large and small, including ESPN, CNN, ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the Wall Street Journal. 

Everybody loves a winner. The Blue Coats’ Wednesday night home game was streamed by ESPN+.

Ticket sales shot up five times the daily average. This Friday night’s game at Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington will be the first sellout in weeks at the arena, which seats 2,500 for basketball. 

And, of course, plans are underway to start hawking the 24-year-old’s jersey at the G League’s online store.

No less than TNT’s own Shaquille O’Neal credited the fresh-faced point guard with “saving” the moribund Slam Dunk Contest. Reigning NBA Finals MVP Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors tweeted McClung’s performance was “unreal” to his 14.3 million followers.

Never Seen Anything Like It

Blue Coats president Larry Meli said he’s never seen anything like Mac Mania. Even when Allen “The Answer” Iverson was winning scoring titles for the 76ers.

“I’ve been with the 76ers for 25-plus years – and I’ve never experienced anything that’s taken off so quickly and got so big, so fast,” Meli told Front Office Sports. “It’s amazing when things happen like this. You just have to take advantage of the opportunity.”

But this week’s mania also underlines the challenge facing minor league sports franchises when thrust into the national or international spotlight.

Think of the global frenzy surrounding baseball’s Double-A Birmingham Barons when NBA superstar Michael Jordan joined the Chicago White Sox’ minor league affiliate back in 1994.

Minor league sports teams run lean. Heading into NBA All-Star Weekend, the Blue Coats had only eight people on the team’s business side and 20 overall. 

With the media hounds in full cry, the team had to borrow three media relations members from the 76ers just to sort through press requests. 

The week was a blur for McClung too. He was sleepless from non-stop interviews. At one point, he still had 1,000 unread text messages on his cell phone.

“The beauty of (Philadelphia) being so close is we can lean on the 76ers organization to help us. They can come down and lend their support,” said Meli. “Otherwise, Yes, it would be completely overwhelming. But we have some great people on this team. They were able to take it on.”

Some Tricky Challenges Ahead

The McClung frenzy also presents some tricky challenges for the 76ers and the NBA. 

One of the league’s brightest new stars doesn’t play in the NBA. He plays in the G League.

In fact, McClung (who won the Slam-Dunk competition in Salt Lake City wearing a 76ers jersey) has never suited up for Philadelphia. 

He signed a two-way contract on Feb. 14, allowing the team to call him anytime. It remains to be seen whether the loaded 38-19 76ers will do so.

Mac McClung is helping ticket sales soar for his G-League team.

Star Is Born: Mac McClung Driving Ticket Sales For His G League..

Sales are up five times daily average since winning Slam Dunk Contest.
February 22, 2023

Meanwhile, there’s no telling how long the business boost generated by McClung’s dramatic win will continue. 

Will he be a one-week wonder before fading back into basketball obscurity? That’s a tough question. Based on Wednesday night’s game, Meli is hopeful. 

The Blue Coats sold over 2,000 tickets for Wednesday’s 116-111 loss to the Motor City Cruise. No, it wasn’t a sellout. But it was a much stronger gate than other midweek dates. 

The game attracted new fans from surrounding states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Fans gave the former Georgetown Hoyas player a hero’s welcome, with one holding up a sign reading, “McClung for President 2023.”

Meli hopes McClung’s star power will return his franchise to pre-COVID-19 attendance levels of 2,200 spectators a game vs. the current 1,600.

After Friday night’s game, the Blue Coats will hit the road for almost two weeks. He’s curious to see if G League spectators nationwide will also turn out for McClung.

Like every other craze, Mac Mania will have its life cycle, admitted Meli. But minor league teams also live for these kinds of business opportunities. He vows his Blue Coats will “ride” the wave as long as possible.

“For a small organization, this is exactly what you want. You want to become relevant and tell the story,” Meli said. “Mac can also tell his story. How he got to where he is right now – and what his dream is.” 

McClung took home $100,000 for winning the Dunk contest. That was nearly as much as he’s made in his short pro career, according to Boardroom.

“I wanna be in the NBA,” said McClung, who scored only 7 points in Wednesday’s game. “I want to make an impact. Can’t have nights like tonight, but I’m just waiting my turn.”

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