I was 27 years old when I first jumped off a trampoline and dunked a basketball.
It was much harder than I thought it would be.
It was 1991 and I was 4 years out of competitive gymnastics. I was preparing for an audition to become the mascot for the Houston Rockets.
I was motivated by some of my gymnastics teammates who had become mascots at other NBA teams and were doing amazing things as freesTYle dunkers and as mascot entertainers.
I didn’t realize it at the time but dunking off the trampoline was not part of the audition and after earning the job, it would not become part of my job description until many months later when I proved to the marketing department that trampoline dunking could be an effective tool in my entertainment arsenal.
At the time, the NBA hosted a mascot slam dunk contest during the NBA All Star Jam Session where my teammates Michael Zerrillo, Bob Wolf and Paul Linne would compete against other mascots in front of 1000’s of students packed into the audience and millions of people watching at home. I wanted so much to be a part of such a contest and in 1994 I got my chance. It wasn’t a televised event as it had been in prior years but it was a dunk contest in front of 1000’s of excited, screaming students at the All Star Jam Session in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I had perfected a round-off dunk and would finally be able to show it off to a huge, hungry audience beyond the walls of the Summit, the arena where the Rockets played their games. I also hoped that I’d be able to do the front-flip, round-off dunk which was even better but not as consistent.
I was performing as TURBO and had envisioned this moment since the first time I performed dunks in front of Rocket’s fans.
The students were screaming, the energy in the building was escalating by the moment and I was fired up. I took off running and mid stride of the 2nd or 3rd step I realized my steps were off, immediately I began making corrections and for just a nanosecond, I panicked. As is the case so often in freesTYle dunking (and in life) - the moment you begin to doubt is the beginning of a created outcome you don’t want.
Here I was in the middle of what I considered the perfect opportunity to establish my legacy in the mascot dunk game and I came up short.
It wasn’t the first time I missed that dunk and it wouldn’t be the last. For a long time though, it hurt the most.
Over time and hundreds of dunks later I came to realize the value of misses like this. They are lessons, mostly about the power of mental focus, the power of belief and the power of physical and mental preparation. Also, they’re not the end of the world.
Now as I plan DUNK NINJA DALLAS 2018, a freesTYle dunk competition, almost 27 years since the first time I jumped off a trampoline and dunked a basketball, I find myself thinking what I thought then:
“This is much harder than I thought it would be.”
What keeps me motivated are guys like Richard Smith who won the contest when it was first held in our training gym in 2015 and was called Planet Dunk, Eddie Ray Johnson III who placed 2nd at Dunk Ninja Dallas 2017, Kyle Gudde, who has never competed in Dunk Ninja but has been chompin' at the bit, Dylan Hartman, also a Dunk Ninja virgin who may or may not attend but is madly passionate about freesTYle dunking and of course Greg Mueller who is the reigning 2 time Dunk Ninja champion.
It’s a different dunk world now than it was in 1994 and while I don’t plan on doing my signature round-off dunk at Dunk Ninja Dallas 2018, I do plan on experiencing the excitement of witnessing these guys deliver their signature dunks and further cement their places in freesTYle dunk history.
Register for Dunk Ninja Dallas at DunkNinja.com
Must be a member of United States Freestyle Dunk Federation to compete and participate in the clinic and mini-conference.
Only 10 competition slots available
turbo round off dunk: https://youtu.be/sCOsu5YtlMY
turbo compilation: https://youtu.be/mLAx-VKGfSs