Tag Archives: NBA

“Mr. Trick Shot” Hoops It Up

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.”

Chris Dobransky: honorary Harlem Globetrotter.

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)

Christopher Dobransky and friend. When the New York City high school gym was ruined during Hurricane Sandy, the NBA paid for repairs. LeBron James, Steph Curry and commissioner Adam Silver attended the rededication ceremony. “Mr. Trick Shot” did not perform — but the NBA stars would have been impressed!

Basketball Players Rock The Vote. Elliot Gerard Assists.

“Hoopers Vote” is a basketball-oriented voter registration and education drive. The point is to use NBA and WNBA players, coaches, retired stars and media members to raise public awareness, as Election Day looms.

The initiative has gotten an important assist from a Westport illustrator.

Elliot Gerard is passionate about sports. When the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title, Gerard designed an enormous mural for their arena.

His work has been featured on ESPN, NBC, CBS, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated, the Boston Globe and Washington Post.

He spent several years as vice president, creative director at a Westport-based marketing firm. He worked with corporate partners like IBM and AT&T — and (back to sports) the Super Bowl.

Gerard is now a founder and creative director with Heartlent Group. Combining “heart” and “talent,” the social strategy and creative content agency recently snagged that Hoopers Vote contract.

When Rock the Vote — the initiative’s sponsor — first contacted Gerard, his thought was to create a digital “mural” with 50 basketball stars. Each would represent one state.

But the artwork was so compelling that everyone wanted more. So far, Heartlent has created nearly 250 “voter graphics.” The goal is 300 by Election Day.

The expanded campaign delights Gerard. “I wanted to reach as many voters as possible,” he says. “The more influencers, the bigger the campaign.”

The graphics include a checkmark — representing the famous “Rock the Vote” logo — going across each face. Click below for a video:

Gerard wanted to give a consistent but unique look to all of the pieces. He used graphics representing a basketball court, voting form, elements from state flags, even US postage symbols (to encourage voters to mail in their ballots).

Gerard says this is one of the biggest and most important projects he’s ever worked with. He and his former boss, Keith Stoeckeler created Heartlent “exactly for campaigns like this. Our mission is to be an agency that puts our entire hearts in not only all our work, but also in the causes we’re part of.”

“I went beyond just telling the overall story of these voters,” Gerard explains.

“I visually explored each hooper’s career and life.” He added easter eggs and icons representing the teams they played or rooted for, colleges they attended, awards and championships they won, charities they are part of, and other symbols for their lives.

A gallery of Hoopers Vote graphics.

Special stories — like Stephanie Ready as the first woman to coach men’s professional basketball, and Jason Collins as the first openly gay active NBA player — got special representation.

The next step was to create templates that any basketball player — or voter — can use. They can put their face in with their favorite NBA or WNBA team colors.

Now it’s up to the basketball community to get voters registered, and to the polls.

That’s no slam dunk. But thanks to Elliot Gerard, the basketball community will rock the vote.

(To see dozens of “Hoopers Vote” graphics, click here.)

Remembering Manute Bol

Manute Bol — the Dinka tribesman who became one of the best shot blockers in NBA history — died today at 47.  The news brought back memories of the day I saw him in Westport.

It was 1985; Bol was playing basketball for the University of Bridgeport.  One winter afternoon, he walked down Main Street.

Manute Bol

At 7-6 tall, with the spindliest legs imaginable — and striking ebony skin — he certainly stood out.  As he loped down the sidewalk, everyone stopped and stared.

He must have known people were talking and pointing.  It must have happened all the time.  (Though not back home in Sudan:  His mother, father and sister were all between 6-8 and 6-10; his great-grandfather was 7-10.)

Yet he carried himself with grace.  He did not slump; he did not glare.  He did not try to be anything other than what he was:  Manute Bol.

I am not a basketball fan.  So I was unaware that — after his 10-year pro career — he became a political activist.  He returned to Sudan, working for peace and overseeing school construction near his birthplace.

Sudan is a long way from Westport.  But — based on my brief glimpse of this remarkable man here — I am sure he was as dignified in that poverty-stricken, war-torn land he loved, as he was walking down a very alien Main Street here.