How do you practice for a dunk jumping over Shaq when you don’t have access to a Shaq on a regular basis?
It’s tough. My man Chuck (Millan) from Team Flight Brothers, we tried a bunch of things. We tried having people stand, putting basketballs on top of them, just to make sure I could clear the shot. So it was tough.
Were you sure you could do it?
Yeah, I was definitely sure. I wouldn’t have brought him out there if I wasn’t sure.
Early on today, you promised Africa you had a few tricks up your sleeves, and, boy, did you deliver. By the way, you became the first African, full-blooded African, by the way, to win any event on NBA All-Star Saturday. Early on today, the Basketball Africa League was announced by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. You just crowned an incredible day for African basketball. Is this a sign to you that African basketball is about to emerge out of the shadows?
Yeah, definitely. If you look around the league, we have a bunch of African players, a bunch of them are producing, and a bunch of them are great players. My goal for Africa is to try to establish a platform there, and try to go back home as much as possible and do things for the community out there and show them what it’s like to be around an NBA player. I can’t wait. I’ve got a lot of things planned for Africa this summer.
The dunk over Shaq is obviously phenomenal. Did you allow it to creep into your head, what if I miss this dunk?
No, never. I never thought of that. At that moment, I’m thinking best-case scenario, which is make it, get the crowd going, and get 50.
You had Russ as part of your first dunk, PG and Ray Felton courtside. What did it mean to have your teammates’ support out there tonight?
That’s what it’s all about. Coming out here, we all came out here as one, as Thunder Nation. We wanted to bring home, of course, first this NBA Slam Dunk, and now tomorrow hopefully one of those guys take care of business on that side and bring something else home, too, so we can bring a lot of trophies back to Oklahoma.
You weren’t very forthcoming about what you were going to do leading up to the Dunk Contest. Did Russell know that he was going to be a part of this tonight? And how did that play out in getting him to do it with you?
Russ knew from our last game in New Orleans. We tried it after shootaround. We only did it one time, and after that, it was like, all right, this is what we’re going to do for my first drunk.
You told us a couple of weeks ago when this was announced that you were going to be a little bit nervous out there. I didn’t see it at all. You seem to thrive in that situation. Just kind of tell us how you’re feeling because you didn’t look nervous.
I’ll say it’s the New York in me. I know how to play things down a little bit. I just went out there and I knew if I did what I had to do, I was going to bring a trophy home. That was exactly what I did.
Can you tell us a little about some of the dunks that didn’t make the cut that you were trying out.
I had a couple of dunks that didn’t make the cut, but maybe I should save them for when I compete in this again. It was just great being out there, great competing with those guys. All those guys are great dunkers. Just had a nice time out there.
Can you just take us back through that moment of executing the dunk and just what your feelings were going up to it?
I would say it was great. It was great. I mean, Dennis stole my third dunk. I was going to use D-Wade last and just try to do a little thing for one last dance. That was my favorite player growing up. But it still worked out for the best. Shout out to D- Wade. He knows what’s up.
Hamidou, congratulations. You played pickup basketball with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Did they give you any pep talk to motivate you and get you pumped up for this contest?
No, not really. I haven’t spoken to any of those guys. Only people that I’ve spoken to that helped me with the contest was my teammates and a couple of friends and family members. It was a pretty well thought-out process.
Are you still wearing the Superman uniform?
I don’t have it on. I’ve got it outside, though.
My question is this: How did you come up with the list of your dunks? Did you practice it. Did you just imagine it and then try to execute it in game maybe or in practice?
It took quite a while. I mean, it was definitely a long thought process, but I had great help with the Team Flight Brothers. My guy Chuck, he really helped me out, and he knows what I could do, I know what I could do. So it was all about being creative. We knew from day one that this was going to be what was going to happen. So shoutout to Team Flight Brothers.
How was that experience like for you playing with a player like Russell Westbrook?
Playing with Russ, from day one, it was — I was just a little bit happy, a little bit nervous to see what type of person he was, try to get along, trying to fit in and stuff. From day one, it was like a bond. The bond was there. That was my vet, and I was the rook. He’s taken care of me all the way up to here, and nothing has changed about him since day one. He’s been the same person. He just tries to tell me what is the tools I have to have to stay in this league and just make sure I’m working harder than anyone, because when he was my age, he was doing that, and that’s what made him the player he is today.