'Bout That Time: Auburn's Malik Dunbar recalls SEC titles, Final Four

The creator of a pregame tune that still energizes Auburn basketball fans, Malik Dunbar looks back fondly on his two SEC championship seasons on the Plains

by Jeff Shearer
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Malik Dunbar

AUBURN, Ala.  On the first stop of his recruiting visit to Auburn, Malik Dunbar remembers being ready to commit as soon as he saw his highlights playing on the videoboard at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“They had me at the field,” Dunbar said, laughing at the memory. “We didn’t even need to go to the courts to let me know what the gym looked like. Y’all had me at the field.

“I came from JUCO. I had never been to a D-I school. It was breathtaking to see my face on the big screen.”

In Dunbar’s two seasons on the Plains, Auburn won the SEC regular season championship in 2018 and the SEC Tournament title in 2019.

“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in that year,” Dunbar said of Auburn’s 2017-18 season, before which one pundit predicted a 4-14 SEC record. “They counted us out before looking to see what the team was. We had guys who were selfless. We just wanted to win games. We were a family.”


Flashing his championship rings and a smile that matches their brightness, Dunbar takes pride in having helped Auburn become the first program in the state of Alabama to reach the Final Four.

“It was historic because we left a legacy,” he said. “These are my pride and joy.”

Before the Tigers embarked on their Final Four run, Dunbar ended the team’s last practice on campus with a jingle that quickly became part of Auburn lore: “’Bout That Time.”

“Everything happened organically,” Dunbar said of the bluesy refrain he thrice repeats. “We did our breakdown. Auburn on three, Family on six, and I was thinking to myself, it’s about that time, and I just sung it, and it’s stuck ever since.”

No script, no planning, no intention of going viral.

“It was about that time, and it’s been about that time ever since,” Dunbar said, proud of his contribution to Auburn basketball culture, with video and audio clips of “‘Bout That Time” still circulating on social media as well as during Neville Arena’s famed pregame festivities.

“It’s amazing. To be a part of something big like this is heartwarming,” he said. “When I first heard it, it brought tears to my eyes.”

In the five years since helping the Tigers reach the Final Four, Dunbar has played professionally across the country and around the world, competing in the Dominican Republic, Germany, Egypt and Indonesia, as well as with the Golden State Warriors summer league team and the Los Angeles Clippers G League team.  

He credits Auburn’s coaching staff and director of sports performance Damon Davis for getting him ready for the rigors of pro hoops.

“My physique was already together. I was in shape,” Dunbar said. “I was overprepared. I already had the mentality to work hard. They helped me tremendously. I was already ready.”

022719_mbb_wr_8818'Every time you shoot, I think it's going in': Bruce Pearl instilled confidence in Malik

At 6-6, 230 pounds, defenders seldom tried to take charges when Dunbar drove, but getting downhill was only part of Malik’s game. Head coach Bruce Pearl encouraged Dunbar to take 3-pointers when open.

“He told me, ‘Every time you shoot, I think it’s going to go in,’” Dunbar said, recalling Pearl’s game plan. “We want to run; we’re trying to get fast buckets and run them to death because we were conditioned. Coach D got us right.”

In his first season at Auburn, Dunbar shot 35 percent from 3-point range. In his second season, he was especially reliable in crunch time, shooting nearly 70 percent from the field in the final five minutes of games throughout the season.

 “I tell guys, ‘I’ve been a shooter my whole life,’” he said. “They don’t believe me though.”

Returning this summer to complete his Auburn University degree requirements and work basketball camps, Dunbar enjoys coming home.

“It’s family,” he said. “It’s all love. When or I’m down, or if I’m up and I just want some more love, it’s Auburn for me.”

One young camper this summer delivered a message to Malik.

“He said I’m the reason he started playing basketball,” Dunbar said.

Thinking back to 2017 when his path to the Plains began with those big screen highlights at Jordan-Hare, Dunbar discovered in Auburn so much more than a place to play basketball for two seasons.

“This is not just a school,” he said. “It’s a home. It’s for life.”

For Malik Dunbar, it’s still ‘Bout That Time.

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer

031419_mbb__wr_444Dunbar dunks: At 6-6, 230, Malik made defenders think twice about taking a charge