Queens product Hamidou Diallo has made quite an impression during the NBA All-Star weekend in North Carolina.
The Oklahoma City Thunder rookie guard won the Slam Dunk contest Saturday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte with one of the more memorable performances in recent years, sealing his victory with an incredible dunk over NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal to dispatch New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. in the final round.
“It was great,” Diallo said of winning the competition. “Dennis stole my third dunk. I was going to use D-Wade last. That was my favorite player growing up. But it all worked out.”
Wearing a Superman shirt underneath his jersey to pay tribute to Shaq, Diallo — a Corona native who starred for John Bowne High School — threw down a slam after jumping over the 7-foot-1 Hall of Famer and then hung on the rim by his elbow.
— NBA (@NBA) February 17, 2019
“Yeah, I was sure,” Diallo said of whether he knew he could dunk over O’Neal. “I wouldn’t have brought him out there if I wasn’t sure.”
Diallo tallied 98 points — the highest total in the first round — notching 48 points on his first dunk and 50 on his second.
In the second round, he recorded scores of 43 and 45 on his two dunks, respectively, while Smith Jr. notched 35 and 50 points on his slams.
Diallo was selected by the Brooklyn Nets with the 45th pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, only to be shipped to Oklahoma City in a draft night trade with the Thunder.
Diallo had originally considered declaring for the 2017 draft before backing out at the last moment. After opting out of the 2017 draft, Diallo focused all his energy on improving his game at Kentucky under head coach John Calipari.
Diallo, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, had an up-and-down season for Kentucky, shooting 33.8 percent from 3-point range and converting just 61.6 percent of his free-throw attempts. He spent much of the spring semester stuck in a deep slump that saw him fail to reach double digits in points in 13 of Kentucky’s final 16 games.
But it wasn’t all bad. He showed a few glimpses of his potential down the stretch, including a 22-point performance on 9-of-12 shooting while playing stellar defense in an NCAA Tournament win over Buffalo.
In his high school days, Diallo helped lead the 2016 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team to a gold medal at the 2016 International Basketball Federation Americas U18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile.
He scored 14 points in the final game of the tournament, a 99-84 win over Canada, as Team USA finished with a perfect 5-0 on the court against world-class competition.
Diallo is currently averaging 4.2 points and 47 percent shooting in his rookie campaign with the Thunder.