CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Props were the name of the game in this year’s Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend.
Atlanta’s John Collins brought creativity with an homage to the Wright brothers in North Carolina by leaping over a small replica of a plane. New York’s Dennis Smith Jr. came with gravity-defying leaping ability over J. Cole.
Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo brought the biggest man in the building — Shaquille O’Neal — onto the court and jumped over him and dunked the ball, putting his entire arm through the basket a la Vince Carter, then flashed a Superman shirt he was wearing underneath his Thunder jersey.
Charlotte’s Miles Bridges wore a throwback Larry Johnson Hornets jersey and did a 360 with a pass off the side of the backboard from teammate Kemba Walker.
Diallo and Smith Jr. advanced to the final round, and Diallo won the event scoring 45 points on his final dunk, a two-handed slam after jumping over and grabbing the basketball from rapper Quavo of Migos.
Diallo worked with Chuck Millan of Team Flight Brothers to come up with his dunks.
“My guy Chuck, he really helped me out, and he knows what I could do. I know what I could do,” Diallo said. “So it was all about being creative. We knew from Day One that this was going to be what was going to happen.”
Players have exhausted just about all of the dunk possibilities without the aid of props, so this year’s contestants brought out what, and who, they could.
The judges — David Thompson, A’ja Wilson, Alonzo Mourning, Candace Parker and Dee Brown — were liberal with their perfect-score 50s. Smith Jr. jumped over Dwyane Wade and took a pass from Steph Curry for a dunk, but it took him a handful of attempts to complete it. Fans were not happy with the perfect score.
Diallo’s dunk over O’Neal earned a 50 from the judges, as did Smith Jr.’s dunk with J. Cole. Bridges also received a 50 for his dunk with Walker.
Collins’ tribute to aviation only got a 42.