I’ve never started an “06880” story with a video before.
Then again, before this week I’d never interviewed Christopher Dobransky.
Westport is filled with folks doing interesting things. But no one may be having more fun at it than this energetic phys. ed. teacher.
His students love him. So do millions of people around the world. They see his “Mr. Trick Shot” videos on social media. They’ve watched him on ESPN. They might have caught him with the Harlem Globetrotters, at Madison Square Garden.
It’s a long way from Yonkers, where he grew up. He did not play varsity basketball in high school — he got a job to pay for a car instead — but he was on an intramural team. While earning his BA (Iona College) and master’s (Manhattanville), he and his friends enjoyed open gym nights.
That was the extent of his court experience, when he was hired by a New York high school.
Basketball is a city game. “All you need is a ball and a hoop,” Dobransky notes. He challenged students to games of Horse — and always won. (He gave them rewards like free periods anyway.)
He also entertained them with crazy shots. “I was always good at them,” he says modestly.
First, Dobransky explains, he visualizes a shot in his head. He considers the spin and speed of the ball, and the angle of the bounce. If he misses, he adjusts.
“It’s all about consistency,” Dobransky says.
Clearly though, he inhabits a world the rest of us don’t. While it took him a full gym period to master his drop kick off the wall, others take 1 to 10 tries. “Twenty, max,” he says. “It’s really just physics.”
He and his wife Joanna — a 5th grade teacher in New Canaan — had always liked Westport. They found a house they could afford after the 2007 stock market crash.
“It’s a great town,” Dobransky says. “The restaurants, the schools — we love it.”
Three years ago he was hired by Booker T. Washington Academy in New Haven. A student teacher told Dobransky he should tape his trick shots, and put them on the internet.
USA Today did a story on him. A marketing company bought the rights to make compilation tapes. Within 3 days, he had 500,000 views.
“Mr. Trick Shot” grew from there. Students — inspired by their suddenly famous teacher — gave him ideas for new tricks. He rewarded their ideas (and good behavior) by including them in his videos.
CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News — they all called. It was a feel-good story.
And though Dobransky feels great, he keeps coming back to his students.
“I don’t think I’m doing anything special,” he says. “The cool thing is the kids’ reactions.”
They react with awe. Their favorites are his selfies, when he holds his phone and records himself shooting backwards.
Dobransky was offered a half-time spot during last spring’s NCAA March Madness. COVID squashed that.
But so far, nothing compares to the surprise invitation from the Globetrotters to perform at the Garden and Westchester County Center.
“That’s every kid’s dream,” Dobransky says. “I got the jersey, everything. The top 3 days of my life were my marriage, the birth of my kid, and playing with the Globetrotters.”
The ranking changes, he admits, “depending on if my wife is around when someone asks.”
Dobransky is an international sensation — he’s particularly big in Europe and Asia — but he’s a hometown hero too.
When he applied for work as a one-on-one trainer at the Westport Weston Family YMCA, they knew who he was. Kids love challenging him.
The Y is his 3rd home — after his home and the gym. He also works in the fitness center on Sundays, and getting certified as a personal trainer.
Dobransky’s trick-shot talents entertain viewers. They bring smiles to our faces.
But they serve a larger purpose too.
“Kids see me, and they learn that anything is possible if you try hard enough,” he says.
“And when they’re in the gym together — every race, every religion, every type of kid — they always get excited. It’s pretty cool to bring everyone together like that.”
(Follow Christopher Dobransky on Instagram: @mistertrickshot. Hat tip: David Meth)