When the Virginia Cavaliers held on for one of the most dramatic Elite Eight wins in NCAA history, forward Mamadi Diakite made history. Diakite, a native of Conakry, Guinea, became the first Guinean to play in the Final Four. Now, he’s doing it again as he’s the first of his country to make it to an NBA Finals. The Milwaukee Bucks kick off their push for an NBA title tonight, July 6th, as they take on the Phoenix Suns.
What a journey this season has been One more stop with the best guys in the country pic.twitter.com/MHkgTroCpj— Mamadi Diakite (@_mdiakite) July 5, 2021
Back in April of 2019, Diakite was the talk of the town as the Hoos made their historic postseason push. “My cousins told me that if I go back home right now, the whole population would come welcome me home,” Diakite stated prior to Virginia’s semifinal game against Auburn.
“It means a lot to me,” Diakite said of being the first of his country to reach a Final Four. “Trying to show them that anything is possible. Coming from playing soccer, switching up to basketball and being able to prove that I can be on the big stage and probably win the whole thing. That means a lot to me.”
Diakite went un-drafted after the 2020 coronavirus-shortened season, eventually getting picked up by the Bucks on a two-way contract in November of 2020. He ended up playing with the Lakeland Magic after the Wisconsin Herd suspended their G League season, and Diakite emerged in a big way.
With the Magic, Diakite averaged a double-double (18.5 points, 10.3 rebounds) per game, and was named to the 2020-21 All-NBA G League First Team and the 2020-21 NBA G League All-Defensive Team, as well as the NBA G League All-Rookie Team. He finished second in G League Rookie of the Year voting as he helped the Magic make the G League Playoffs. Lakeland would go on to win the G League title, defeating former teammate Braxton Key’s Delaware Blue Coats.
Diakite — who brought back his signature 2019 NCAA tournament blond locks back in May — made his NBA debut on March 11, 2021, almost exactly one year after his final season in Charlottesville was cut short. The Bucks converted his contract from two-way to a conventional one on April 21, and the Virginia alum is averaging 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in 12 games of action.
The Phoenix Suns are favored in the NBA Finals, but Diakite has a chance at becoming an NCAA champion, G League champion, and NBA champion in the span of 27 months. Not too shabby. Phoenix and Milwaukee tip off at 9pm on ABC.