Rookie Hamidou Diallo showed off his imagination and 44-inch vertical leap to claim the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday.
The Oklahoma City Thunder guard needed a 43 to win on his second and last dunk of the finals to beat New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. for the crown. Diallo called on rapper Quavo to hold the ball just above his head, sprinted from the right corner of the court and crammed a walk-off, two-hand jam.
The dunk received a 45.
“Atmosphere was great,” Diallo said. “I just came out and gave the crowd what they were looking for.”
There were props and propellers, guest appearances and perfect 50s, but in the end the night belong to Diallo, a second-round pick out of Kentucky who was a five-star recruit out of high school.
Smith brought Dwyane Wade and Stephen Curry to the court needing to score at least 38 points after a botched first dunk in the finals.
Smith stationed Wade in the middle of the lane facing the basket and Curry to Wade’s right. Curry lobbed the ball as Smith vaulted over Wade, caught the ball and put down a right-handed windmill for a perfect 50, to the rousing response of boos from the crowd.
“I was a little nervous,” Diallo said, adding that he would give the golden basketball trophy to his mom.
On his first finals dunk, Diallo was eye-to-rim, taking the ball off a bounce to the right side of the rim and authoritatively flushing it for a score of 43.
Smith missed two dunks on his first turn in the finals and was given scores of seven across the board for a 35.
In the opening round, Diallo rolled a ball rack into the middle of the lane preparing for his second dunk. He opted instead to call for “the biggest person in the building.”
Shaquille O’Neal was positioned four feet from the basket, and Diallo skied over the 7-footer and finished with his right arm stuffed inside the rim.
Diallo was given a 50, and he had a total of 98 on his first two dunks.
Diallo was a stuntman in the first round, too. He pulled teammate Russell Westbrook out of the crowd and charged from the corner down the baseline, caught Westbrook’s lob and stuffed home a lefty windmill to put up a 48, including scores of 10 from three of the five judges.
Smith tallied a 95 total on his two first-round tries. Smith put on J. Cole’s high school number 15 jersey, and seated the performer in a folding chair outside the charge circle. Charging from the right wing, Smith took a lob and reared back with his right hand for a powerful finish and perfect 50. On his first dunk, Smith started from the right wing and lobbed the ball into the lane, catching the ball on the bounce for a 360-degree slam.
After halting on the first and fourth attempts, and missing the second and third throw-down, Smith completed the dunk on his fifth try. He scored 45, with a 9 from all five judges.
Charlotte Hornets guard Miles Bridges donned a Larry Johnson jersey and made up for a botched first round.
All-Star Kemba Walker cameoed, laying the ball off the side of the backboard. Bridges grabbed the ball and flushed a 360 for a perfect 50.
On his first try, Bridges lobbed the ball off the backboard on the left side of the rim, caught it and pulled the ball under his right leg before trying a windmill.
He missed all three tries and scored 33. Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins wrapped a towel around his neck, wore an old-fashioned leather pilot’s cap and leapt over a wooden airplane – kicking the tail off going to the air – and was given a 42.
Collins opened the competition running on the baseline, grabbing the side of the backboard with has left hand and cramming home a reverse with his right to earn a 40.
Former Boston Celtics guard Dee Brown, former Hornets and Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning, ex-Denver Nuggets guard David Thompson, Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker and reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year A’ja Wilson comprised the panel of judges.
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