Two weeks ago today, I and a team of like minded athletes committed 9 days of our lives to focus on the same thing together - Winning the World Championship of FreesTYle Dunking.
#BuDUNKpest2019, the 3rd International Acrobatic Basketball Cup, commenced at 12:45 Budapest time on Saturday, September 14, 2019. There were seven teams assembled to compete, three amateur teams and four pro teams. The four pro teams represented Hungary, France, Slovenia and the USA.
The morning of the competition, I was unaware which show our team was going to deliver. We had two shows lined up. The first show being the one we spent all week developing and fine tuning. The second show being the one we figured out the day before competition during the dress rehearsal when a possible quadriceps pull forced us to create a back up scenario we could use if necessary. Before I continue down that path, allow me to describe the athletes of USA DUNK.
The cities of Boston, Orlando, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Houston and Salt Lake City are where they call home. Add in Fresno and Toronto to include the coaches/alternates. Some are fathers, some are husbands, some have full time jobs, some are freelance entertainers with multiple hustles but all of them are leaders. Leaders within their home dunk teams, leaders in their jobs, leaders in their recreational, civic and religious activities, leaders of their families and most importantly leaders of themselves.
Many of them have performed separately with each other in many shows together but they had NEVER been on the court together as an 8 man team. Both our 2016 team and our 2018 team were “first time performing together” teams. This is not a new thing for us but that does not make it any easier.
The two-a-day training sessions were a bit of a challenge. Part of the team arrived the afternoon of Sept 9 and we went to the gym. The other part of the team arrived the evening of Sept 9 and again we went to the gym. Each day from 3-4:30pm and again at 10pm we entered the gym and put our focus to the test.
We ended the late training sessions well after midnight and even after 1am. Time and time again, we witnessed each other stepping up when stepping up was needed and stepping back when someone else’s stepping up was best for the team. This is a beautiful thing to experience.
Trust was built
Creativity crawled, walked, ran and then flew
Confidence was created
Commitment was solidified
Purpose was revealed
And then Ownership happened
That’s when I knew, “We got this!”
As role models who have performed live at hundreds of schools, festivals and community events, these guys have mastered connecting with audiences of all ages.
As athletes who have jumped hundreds of times in front of 15-20,000 ticket holders at professional and college basketball games, these warriors have a knack for performing under pressure.
As entertainers who have performed on live TV with millions watching at home, these air benders have mastered the art of focusing on what they want.
As leaders in practice and leaders in live shows these strategists have had to make hundreds of split second decisions and call audibles mid show to smooth over show glitches.
These gladiators have been tempered like iron by the fire of live entertainment.
On that sunny Budapest afternoon, the culmination of tens of thousands of combined hours of experience packaged in red, white and blue stepped onto that court with a singular focus:
Do my part and we succeed!
When you know that you know that you know that your teammate is going to do his part and there are zero doubts about you doing yours, magic happens.
As the morning of the competition unfolded, I realized that I came to Budapest with a vision which over the course of a few days had become a reality. It was no longer a show in my head but a show created and owned by all of us caged in our collective hearts, with each beat moving us a step closer to the unleashing.
I decided I did not need to know if it was show #1 or show #2 that was going to be performed. I was surrounded by a team of world class performers who put in the time, paid their dues, knew what was at stake and were focused on doing their part. My work was done here so all I did was remind them that it was our hearts that got us this far, all we had to do was follow the collective beat.
Shows are hardly ever perfect. This one came close to an ideal delivery.
The iconic Heroes Square was the setting for the competition and it was quite surreal to be surrounded by all the columns and statues and the history they represented. The space we competed in is a monument to the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars. These chieftains were leaders of different tribes that came together from different parts of the area to form the principality of Hungary.
Erected to honor these leaders’ willingness to put aside differences, form a team and in the process form a country, made Heroes Square the perfect place for our story to unfold. Instead of seven chieftains, eight dunk warrior leaders from various parts of America came to this place and formed a team and at Heroes Square they were the epitome of solidarity, focus and fun.
While I am grateful for the 1st place trophy they earned, my witness to their journey is what I hold as my most treasured trophy.
Thank you Gregory Mueller, Kyle Gudde, David St. Pierre, Richard Smith, Joey Bartman, Brandon Sarver, Michael Anderson and Demitri Briggs.
Andrew Cyrus your contribution is priceless and much appreciated.