If you’ve ever played basketball you have had that dream scenario. It’s you and him, he’s been on you all game and now the play has come down to just the two of you 1-on-1. You decide not to pass or pull up for a jumper, you put the ball on the floor and take him to the rim and finish with a dunk. That’s a dream that ballers of all ages have had. As a young person you get out there and put in the work necessary to achieve it. As you get older, the dream is still there but the mind and body remind you that you may not be able to do what your imagination has come up with. Do you give up the dream and settle into middle aged life, or do you get in the gym and put in the work? Say yes and here come the haters. For me they say "Hey you’re not exactly a spring chicken anymore! You should really act your age! The idea of someone your age trying to dunk is pure insanity.....or is it?
Chasing The Dream
I’ve heard all this in my own pursuit of the dunking dream. All I wanted to do is be able to do something that I’ve been fascinated by since I was a young kid. The reality is that there’s a lot more to Basketball than dunking, but nothing quite motivates or excites like a nice dunk.
All you have to do is search for dunks on Instagram and you’ll see numerous pages dedicated to the pursuit of the dunk. It leaves ya wondering what’s the big deal?
Today it seems that everyone is chasing the dream to fly like...(insert your own dunk hero). Everywhere you turn there’s someone out there claiming to add inches to your vertical if you follow their programs. All I’ll say is do your homework before starting out on a program, but the bigger question in all of this is simply why?
I decided to put that question out in my corner of the Instagram world and hear what my fellow dunk addicts had to say.
Tommy is a high school student and chasing the dunk dream. Here is what he had to say:
“What started to spark my interest in dunking was watching old clips of Nate Robinson winning the dunk contest. As a short guy and a Knicks fan, it was pretty inspiring and motivating to see someone as short as him dunk, and dunk with intensity and flair. Shortly after that I bought a mini hoop that might’ve been 5’5” at most. I spent hours every day trying to perfect iconic dunks and create some of my own.”
Paul, a 5’10” basketball player who started dunking in high school had another motivation. He’s got something to prove. He says; “
“There’s not many 5’10 dunkers there so I wanna be one of a few people who can”
I can relate to both of these young ballers. There’s something about seeing/being the one nobody expects to pull off such an athletic feat. If you’re as competitive as I am, you just can’t sit and see someone do something that you believe you can do. That’s where it started for me.
A Personal Story
At the risk of really dating myself, (I'm proud of my age actually), I can remember watching this 5'7" guy with a funny nickname in the NBA dunk contest. As "Spud" Webb was introduced I had the same thought that everyone else had, what's he doing here? Well, from the start of the contest to the end he answered that question in a resounding way. By the time he held up the winners trophy we were all convinced he belonged there.
I'm pretty sure that I wasn't the only one who had the same thought that if this guy could dunk like that then surely I could dunk too! After all, I was almost 6'5". It's expected of me right? I'd love to tell you that was the moment I decided to chase the lofty goal of dunking but at best I'd say my efforts only amounted to a few tries every now and then. Sounds familiar right?
That moment came my senior year of high school when we were blowing this team out by a ridiculous margin and my teammates encouraged me to put one down on a fast break. As I stole the ball and took off for the other end, I could see the goal and with the encouragement of the fellas I got in the lane, took off on one foot and reached for the goal but sadly threw it off the back of the rim.....embarrassment. Being the resilient teenager, I figured that if given another chance, the glory of throwing down a dunk in the game was going to happen. Well a few minutes later, that opportunity came and sadly it went the same way as the first attempt...failure. The guys never let me forget that moment. One of them even reminded me of it in my yearbook. More importantly I never forgot it.
From that day I figured that I was going to reach this lofty goal of dunking. After all, it ran in my family, I was 6'5" and I played basketball so it's my right to dunk!!! I did what everyone who wanted to accomplish this goal did. Started working my legs a lot in the weight room (hence my seeming life long obsession with leg day) and of course in college I found one of those mail order vertical jump programs thinking it was going to be the solution to my problem of not being able to dunk like the others. I could tell you countless stories of running and jumping stairs in my dorm with my buddy and fellow basketball junkie Mark. Even after college, I have memories of doing box jumps under the track stadium as a campus pastor at the University of Alabama with one of my student leaders and fellow dunk challenged big man Charles. We will sum that all up by saying that at best it got me the ability to dunk occasionally, on a good day, with the sun moon and stars all in alignment. Oh did I mention a couple of ACL surgeries along the way. Well don't break out the tissues just yet... my story doesn't end there, but we will come back to that a little later. Simply put I was very driven to make this dream happen. By now you are thinking I must be crazy for chasing this dream, but I am sure you're also asking the question, WHY?
The Drive To Dunk
Ever wonder what drives people to pursue what some may say is a childish goal or even a pipe dream. What makes one want to dunk? What's the big deal? After all, it still only worth two points. One of my former teammates wore an t-shirt that said "When A Dunk Is Worth Three Points, Then I'll Start Doing It!" Of course Joel was a short point guard with "no chance" as he put it of dunking. I used to tell him that was just an excuse for not trying, if he really wanted to do it he would. Enter my friend Jordan.
There are some people you see and it's just what you expect from them but there are those of us who you don't expect it from. To look at his six foot frame you wouldn't expect him to get up and dunk on someone but he can with ease. If you have ever done it, there's a feeling that goes with being able to shock people with a nice dunk. Jordan puts it this way; "I feel as though I placed fear into their hearts and shocked their crowd into silence " I still remember seeing him do it when he was a high schooler. We all wondered, how does he do that? Natural ability or hard work? For Jordan, it was a journey that started around age 13. He puts it this way"
"I work ankle weights to school all day.....I was short white and had a pappy who was 5'10" with red hair...always told I will never be able to and MJ was my idol...so I created the ability"
To know Jordan is to know he's a very ambitious person. I know most people aren't as driven as him but we all have goals we want to accomplish. For him, he chooses not to be held back by excuses or being told he can't do it. What's holding you back? Not just from dunking but from many of the things you desire to do in life.
Something Holding You Back?
We have a multitude of excuses for not achieving our goals. In a recent conversation with sports performance specialist and founder of Ingrained2Train.com Jimmy Carter, I asked him about why people don't achieve their goals:
What Holds People Back From Doing It? I believe there are 2 reasons why: The first one is FEAR. Many people are afraid of change, uncertainty, and failure. What happens is they let these fears keep them from taking any action. The person who gets what they want acts in spite of FEAR. They fell the fear and do it anyways. Those who don't get what they want come up with excuses to justify their fears. The 2nd reason is they don't have a clear WHY for going after their goals. Again, without a strong WHY you'll never stick through the tough times to accomplish your goals. "
What’s Your Why?
Before you can truly pursue your goals you have to answer the question, What's your WHY? For me with regards to dunking, it was and this nagging thought that if all these other people who are not as tall as me can do it, then what's my problem. I'm a super competitive person and I don't like not being able to do something, especially if it's something I believe is within my reach. All you have to do is doubt me and I'll set out to prove you wrong. It's like that time when the high school basketball coach said I wasn't a basketball player and cut me from his sophomore team. It stars out trying to prove him wrong but eventually turns into something I want for myself, to prove to myself that I can do it. The irony there is that it's over 30 years later and not only have I become a better player but I've been helping to develop other players for nearly 25 years.
What's your why? What or who is holding you back from your goals? When it comes to your dreams, you can't let what others think hold you back from achieving your goals. Dunking a basketball is not the end all be all, but it's a feat that many admire and desire to achieve. People are spending millions of dollars and dedicating tons of hours to be able to do it. For me, It's something that I've chased ever since that fateful game in high school. There's something attractive about being able to do such a dominating thing.". Let's face it, most of us aren't blessed with natural jumping ability, it takes hard work. For me, after years of struggling to get the ability I stumbled into the world of sports performance training which proved to be a game changer. Here is the rest of my story....
The Why Don’t Work Till You Do...
I have always had a dream of being able to dunk at age 40 My inspiration came from a couple guys I have know through the years that were doing it. So, at age 38 while visiting Acceleration Sports Performance in Naperville IL, I noticed their claims to be able to add inches to your vertical jump. I asked my good friend JR , former NFL player and part owner of Acceleration could they do that for an "old" guy. He confidently said give me six weeks and see if we have you dunking on your next birthday so I took the bet. He and his team went to work on me. I had this goal of being able to dunk on my 40th birthday and with my 39th coming, I thought I'd give performance training a try.
It was a lot of hard work. I had never trained like this before. Here's this 38 year old Pentecostal preacher and basketball trainer working out with top level high school, college and pro athletes trying to get this crazy goal of being able to consistently dunk a basketball. As tough as the training was, all I could do is keep that goal in mind and remember missing those dunks in high school.
I was driven by the potential of what could be. How many guys my age can dunk? What if that high school coach could see me doing this? The looks on the faces of my players seeing coach put one down. A chance to shut down the doubters and haters. You need to have the drive to succeed in order to accomplish anything in life including dunking.
What's your drive to dunk? What's your drive to succeed at whatever you set out to do? It all goes back to the WHY. Once you get the WHY down then you can set out to achieve your goal. You have to attack all the barriers that hold you back. In my case i had to overcome the fear of failure which held me back from going after the dream of dunking.
As I trained, I gained the confidence to go for it. Seeing results along the way served to encourage me that dunking at age 40 was possible, but it was something that can go well beyond that as you can see by the video on the left. I got there and let me tell you that the sense of accomplishment was great, but it wasn't enough for me. I figured that if I could do this, then what can stop me from keeping this going.
Beyond The Dunk: The Bigger Picture
There's a bigger picture here. As cool as dunking is, the sense of accomplishment and confidence gained is something that can propel you towards success in other areas of life.
One of my former players Kyle puts it this way:
"It feels great. It's really rewarding. Just to prove others wrong and especially to find something you like/love to do and then go get good at it. It really applies to everything in life."
The first time I saw this 6'2" baller get up was when he was a high schooler, I was impressed. Not only with what he could do, but his drive literally to do it. Here's what I mean. Kyle lived over an hour or so away and would travel to our gym just to work on his game. That's why we've been friends for so long. He isn't afraid to put in the work to get better.
After graduating college, he hit me up to get back in the gym together and he still has that same drive to be the best he can. As you can see from the video below he hasn't stopped flying. I asked him whether it was hard work or natural ability and he said:
" I would say a bit of both. Always wanted to dunk and just keep trying and trying until it happened. My dad was a pretty good jumper so i think i got some of it from that too."
What he said next is something that got my attention.
"...once I got it down and started to be able to dunk pretty good I soon realized that dunking wasn't that important in the game and being a good shooter was more important. Or at least what was going to get me more playing time so I focused on that ."
There's the bigger lesson in all of this. The confidence gained in accomplishing one goal opens the door to doing more. My friend Jimmy Carter, who also is my Athletic performance trainer, says it best:
"When you're able to do the things to accomplish your goals, you feel confident. By making progress and growing into your goals, it strengthens your belief within yourself. You have this unbreakable confidence. You'll never achieve this confidence without taking bold action though. Actions speak so loud, we can't hear the words that you're saying."
As for the rest of my story, I'm now in my late 40’s. After I hit that goal of dunking at age 40, I decided to continue to train and see how long I can keep this up. I'm no MJ or anything like that and my dunks are not that creative but with the drive to continue and with the help of a friend and trainer like Jimmy, those days of only occasional dunks and lots of misses have turned into being able to put it down better and more consistently than I did as a 17 year old senior in high school. I'd say it feels pretty good to walk in the gym and get one, like I did with one of the guys I used to workout with who went on to play college ball. Check this out;
The big lesson that I've learned through this whole process is that I or anyone can accomplish what they set their minds to do. If I can dream of dunking in my 40's, and do it, what else can I dream about and do? For you what is that dream you are chasing?
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” is a Fred Devito quote i have heard a lot through the years. What‘s that goal that they said you couldn't do? We all have dreams of greatness. It doesn't have to be dunking a basketball, but you have some goal that you've been pursuing. Is it something big enough to challenge you? Is its bigger than you? Is it something that’s going to take a lot of hard work to obtain? Whatever it is, stop talking about it and be about it!
Take a look at what drives you. What is it going to take for you to get there? You may have to sacrifice a few things to get there, but I can tell you that it is worth it. The dunks are not what this is all about, the dunks are just a representation of that goal or goals that seems bigger than you.
So what are you waiting for? Discover your WHY and get after it! Once you do, you just may discover the sky's the limit to what you can accomplish! DREAM BIG! TAKE BIG ACTION! WIN BIG!
Stay Forever Strong!