Kenneth Faried is true to himself, on court and in video with his moms

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HOUSTON — Kenneth Faried simply is who he is.

In a league full of pretense and ego, Faried comes off as genuine and a guy being himself. All the time. You saw it on the All-Star Friday Night when in the Rising Stars everyone was playing half-speed except the “Manimal” — Faried played the way he always does and dropped 40.

It’s the same off the court, the things that matter to him matter a lot.

So when a Colorado lesbian and gay political advocacy group asked Faried to speak about equality for them in a video, he didn’t hesitate. Then he asked the group if he could bring his two mothers, since they were in town.

What he did was create a video that had a lot of the sports world buzzing.

To Faried, all he did was be himself and speak from the heart.

“They didn’t ask me any questions, they just said ‘can you tell us your story?’” Faried said. “And when you ask me that I pour my heart out. How I found out about the situation, how at first I was ‘Okay, what is this?’ and then I learned. I basically was ignorant then I became very informed.”

In the macho and too-often homophobic world of team pro sports, the video put Faried out in front on the issue. He now works with Athlete Ally, an organization working directly with the NBA and other pro sports leagues to raise awareness and end homophobia in sports. It’s all added to Faried’s popularity.

Faried doesn’t really care about that.

“I don’t do it for the attention, I don’t do it for the notoriety,” Faried said. “I do it because I just genuinely really care about people’s rights. And just because you’re the same sex or if you are the opposite sex you should have the right to do what you want, and choose what you want to do.”

Sports can sometimes mirror life. Faried didn’t face the same kind of obstacles his moms have, but he faced plenty coming out of Morehead State, a school that last produced an NBA player in 1970. But when Faried broke Tim Duncan’s NCAA record for most rebounds in a career, teams took notice. Scouts loved his energy — and energy translates to the NBA — but questioned his skills and what he could do.

So they tested him hard in workouts before the draft.

“People were testing my skills and I surprised a lot of people because I can do certain things,” Faried said. “Because in college I played zone, they were shocked I could really guard people and guard guards — guards couldn’t like get around me as easily as they thought they would.”

Oh, and he can shoot a little too, he’s more than happy to tell you.

Speaking with him in an Adidas lounge (the shoe company sponsors him), I asked Faried about the three pointer he dropped Friday in the rising stars game. He had never even attempted one in an NBA game, mostly because coach George Karl would have benched him before the ball got to the rim.

Now he’s got proof in video form to show coach.

“I’ve got it planned out, I’ve already got it on my phone,” Faried joked. Well, mostly joked. “I’m going to say ‘hey, listen: corner threes.’ That’s all I want.”

He said it all with his infectious smile. Because that’s just who he is.

Hamidou Diallo is Superman for a night, wins 2019 Slam Dunk Contest

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.— The Oklahoma City Thunder have more athletes on the wing than those couple of guys whose names you know playing in the All-Star Game on Sunday.

They have Hamidou Diallo, and he can climb the ladder with the best of them and knows how to throw it down.

Diallo had the best dunk of the night — a Superman-themed elbow dunk over Shaq — and is deservingly your 2019 All-Star Dunk Contest.

The problem with practicing a dunk over Shaq is the man himself is not around to practice with.

“It’s tough,” Diallo said. “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.”

Diallo edged out the Knicks’ Dennis Smith Jr. in the Finals. On his first Finals dunk, Smith tried to go with a between the legs 360 but missed twice. He changed it up for his third and final dunk attempt, a high bounce tomahawk, but he missed that one too. The judges generously gave him a 33, but he was destined to lose after that.

Smith still put on a show. On his second finals dunk, he brought out Stephen Curry and Dwyane Wade, taking the pass from Curry and leaping over Wade, and after a couple of misses he finally nailed it — for a full 50 from the judges (which the crowd in the arena didn’t agree with).

The contest itself was hit and miss (and for stretches much more miss), and the crowd in the arena did not seem into it, but there were highlights.

John Collins came out first and had one of the more underrated dunks of the night, slapping the backboard on one side then reverse dunking on the other. The judges gave him 8s across the board, which was low for a high degree of difficulty dunk.

On Collins’ second dunk he brought out a mini-replica of the Wright Brothers plane, went with some “first in flight” gear, and…he clipped the plane but made the dunk.

Diallo was next and pulled Russell Westbrook out of the crowd. Westbrook threw it off the side of the backboard and Diallo grabbed it and threw it down. His 48 (out of 50) had him in the lead after the first round.

In the second round, Diallo brought out Shaq for that dunk of the night. That got him into the Finals.

Smith Jr. was next and started with a high bounce catch and dunk but had to do it a couple times after he missed the first one. His second dunk was one of the best of the evening — he brought out J Cole (Sunday’s halftime performer), put on Cole’s high school jersey, then did not hold back.

Charlotte’s Miles Bridges had the hometown crowd behind him, but when he missed every dunk attempt in the first round his night was destined to be short. For his second attempt, he brought out Charlotte legend Muggsy Bogues, rocked the Larry Johnson jersey, then went off the side of the backboard with Kemba Walker for a perfect 50.

Hamidou Diallo elbow-dunks over Shaq (video)

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CHARLOTTE – Vince Carter‘s elbow dunk in the 2000 dunk contest is legendary.

Hamidou Diallo just one-upped it.

The Thunder forward put his entire forearm through the rim – while dunking over Shaquille O’Neal.

Compare that above video to Carter’s iconic dunk. Diallo’s path to the rim is far more impressive than Carter’s:

John Collins breaks airplane on Wright Brothers tribute dunk (video)

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CHARLOTTE – In North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers took flight, John Collins paid homage in the dunk contest. The Hawks big put on a cap, scarf and goggles befitting the Tuskegee Airmen and brought out a large model airplane to jump over.

Removing the goggles was disappointing enough. Then Collins broke the darn plane!

I love gimmick dunks, but you can’t break the prop.

Joe Harris holds off Stephen Curry in 3-point contest

AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHARLOTTE – Three years ago, Joe Harris got waived.

Tonight, he beat the greatest shooter of all-time in the NBA’s 3-point contest.

Harris posted a 26-point final round, topping Stephen Curry‘s 24 and Buddy Hield‘s 19, to win the middle event of All-Star Saturday Night.

“I think you look at the makeup of our Brooklyn Nets team, and it’s a lot of guys that were sort of cast off and had a second opportunity,” said Harris, who washed out with the Cavaliers then got sent to the Magic in a trade-and-waive. “I personally was one of those guys.

“I got lucky going into a situation, going to a Nets organization that had such a strong value and emphasis on culture, skill development. And I’m sort of a byproduct of that system.”

Even as he has gained prominence in Brooklyn, it wasn’t certain Harris would get invited to the 3-point contest. He’s making 47% of his 3-pointers this season, but Spurs forward Davis Bertans is shooting 48% from beyond the arc on nearly as many attempts per game and didn’t get invited. In the greatest 3-point shooting era ever, spots in this event are hard to come by.

So, Harris made a promotional video to aid his campaign. He said his the Nets and his agency pushed it.

“Obviously, I was all for it,” Harris said. “I think to experience All-Star is quite unique.”

Full results

Round 1

Stephen Curry 27

Buddy Hield 26

Joe Harris 25

Danny Green 23

Devin Booker 23

Damian Lillard 17

Dirk Nowitzki 17

Seth Curry 16

Kemba Walker 15

Khris Middleton 11

Round 2

Joe Harris 26

Stephen Curry 24

Buddy Hield 19