CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Oklahoma City Thunder guard Hamidou Diallo knew he’d have to make an impression to win the slam dunk contest. So he decided to find a way to make the biggest one possible: by dunking over the biggest person in the building.

Wearing a Superman shirt underneath his teal Thunder jersey, Diallo threw down a slam after jumping over 7-foot-1 Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and then hung on the rim by his elbow to steal the show and come away as the winner of this year’s competition.

“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’s dunk was one of the few highlights of a competition that featured some compelling slams — including New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. dunking over rapper J. Cole while wearing Cole’s high school jersey and Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins jumping over a plane prop — but also lengthy delays because a few contestants required multiple tries in order to complete their dunks.

Two players — Smith and Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges — failed to convert one of their attempts.

Smith’s failed attempt came on his first dunk in the final round, but he earned a 50 on his second dunk of the final, jumping over Dwyane Wade while getting an alley-oop from Stephen Curry.

Diallo needed at least a 43 on his second dunk of the final to win the title. After pulling rapper Quavo out of the crowd and having him hold the ball over his head, Diallo leaped over him, took the ball out of his hands and slammed it home to score a 45.

As it turns out, Diallo had actually planned on dunking over Wade, his childhood idol, but when Smith used Wade for his dunk, Diallo switched to Quavo.

“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.”

The dunk contest was boring enough that the skills challenge — typically the least interesting event of the night — was arguably more compelling.

Tatum hits half-court shot to win skills challenge.Jayson Tatum needs a half-court shot to knock off Trae Young in the finals of the skills challenge.
That was thanks to the theatrics Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who fell behind in each of his three rounds — first to Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, then to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, and finally to Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young — but rallied to win each and start the night off with a victory.

“No, that was not the plan,” Tatum said with a smile.

It certainly wasn’t his plan to beat Young the way he did — by throwing in a heave from half court when it appeared Young was all but certain to win.

Tatum said his hope was to at least knock Young’s shot away, but he did one better by banking in a shot to edge the Atlanta rookie and earn himself a trophy in the process.

“The previous two rounds the guy was ahead of me, and figured I’d let him get a shot attempt so I’d get closer to the 3-point line,” Tatum said. “But I didn’t want to give Trae a chance.

“I didn’t know I’d make it, but wanted to give myself a chance.”

Tatum’s win came on the heels of a 30-point performance in a victory in Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge as part of Team USA.

And Tatum, whose nickname is Taco Jay, said he hopes winning the skills challenge — which was sponsored by Taco Bell — might allow him to get one more win out of this weekend.

“I’m going to call Taco Bell tomorrow and tell them I need a deal,” Tatum said. “I need to be on the commercial.

“I love tacos.”



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