Hamidou Diallo came into the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest as a player who had impressed league scouts with his leaping ability when he was drafted last summer, but he is unproven at this point in his career.
The 6'5" rookie guard is averaging 4.2 points and 11.4 minutes per game for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and while he can grow into a bigger role with the team, he has a long way to go.
But there is no doubt about his leaping ability or creativity after his explosive performance in the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday night. While competitors Dennis Smith Jr., Miles Bridges, and John Collins were unable to come up with championship performances, Diallo performed one of the most memorable dunks in recent memory to earn the 2019 championship.
Diallo wowed the crowd with his second dunk of the night. The 20-year-old called Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal out of the crowd and positioned the big man a few feet in front of the basket. It was clear that Diallo was going to attempt to leap over the 7'1" Shaq as he performed the dunk.
Just the thought of this was a bold move, and the crowd wanted to see how it played out. The confident Diallo took off from somewhere around midcourt. As he approached O'Neal, he flew over the big man, with an assist from a slight push on Shaq's shoulder for increased leverage.
Diallo made it over the huge obstacle, soared to the rim and dunked the ball down. However, it was not just a dunk. As he finished, he kept his arm inside the rim and hung on up to his elbow. With his other hand, he revealed that he had a Superman shirt under his uniform.
It was both tremendous execution and exciting theater. Diallo may be a relatively obscure bench player competing in Oklahoma City, but he made a huge statement with that dunk.
"Yeah, I was sure," Diallo said of the Shaq dunk, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com. "I wouldn't have brought him out there if I wasn't sure."
He advanced to the second round with Smith, and while he couldn't match the Shaq dunk with the title on the line, he benefited from a series of Smith misses that helped him win the competition.
The reaction to Diallo's Shaq dunk was the equivalent of a standing ovation on the Twitterverse.
Diallo had two other memorable dunks in the competition. On his opening dunk of the night, he took a pass from Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook and executed a left-handed windmill dunk.
On his final dunk, he positioned rapper Quavo to the right of the rim and had him hold the ball slightly above his head. Diallo leaped over Quavo as he grabbed the basketball and slammed the ball down to claim the title.
Smith pushed Diallo in the final round when he appeared to get a favorable score from the judges on a good-but-not-great dunk, but the leap over Quavo removed all doubt.
It was Diallo's night, and his Shaq dunk is going to live in NBA fans' memories for a long time.