There’s a decent chance that Brandon Armstrong has taken over your social media feeds. If he has his way, he’ll soon be taking over, period.
Armstrong, aka @BdotAdot5, is the dude behind those remarkably on-point and very, very funny NBA parody videos. He’s much more than that—we’ll let him explain in a minute—but for our purposes, the story of how this 25-year-old Atlanta-bred ballplayer became an international comedy hoop star is the one everybody wants to know.
We caught up with Brandon this week to learn about his unlikely path.
SLAM: So tell us where you’re from, and where you played ball.
Brandon Armstrong: I’m from Atlanta. I went to Chamblee High School, so I was in the same conference as guys like Derrick Favors, Chris Singleton. And then I played AAU with the Georgia Hurricanes and Atlanta All-Stars. When I was in middle school, I actually played against Dwight Howard, Javaris Crittenton, Lorenzo Brown, MarShon Brooks, there’s so many guys. It’s hard to name ’em all.
SLAM: From the videos it’s clear you’re a guard. How tall are you?
BA: About 6-1, 175.
SLAM: So what happened after high school?
BA: I played ball down here at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. It’s a Division II school. I had a good amount of Division I offers, and I really wanted to go to Boston University. But my SAT scores weren’t the best. I had good grades, but those tests just weren’t for me. So the coach at Lincoln Memorial, Josh Schertz, came down and watched me, offered me on the spot. The pitch he gave me, I really believed in it. When I got there, they hadn’t won a conference game in like eight years. He came in, recruited a bunch of freshman, and we were No. 1 in the nation my senior year. So it was probably the best decision I’ve made in my basketball career.
SLAM: After graduation in 2012, you got a D-League look, right?
BA: Yeah, it was crazy. I went for a league tryout in Memphis, made it, and ended up getting invited to a tryout in Reno, and I got that, and next thing I knew I got invited to Reno Bighorns training camps. I was fresh out of college, and I was looking to go overseas, so to play at that level was a blessing. I’m still great friends with a lot of those guys, like Garrett Temple from the Wizards. He’s a great friend.
SLAM: At that point you’re competing against a lot of dudes with NBA talent. What happened next?
BA: After a couple of months, I went to a summer league in Spain, outside of Madrid, and got some looks from a couple of teams out there, and I actually got offered to play for a team in Montenegro. But my mom, she still had that NBA dream… I had that D-League experience, and I was like, Mom, you gotta be realistic. But I ended up passing on the Montenegro offer. That was a really tough point in my life right there. But then later I had an opportunity to play in Australia, and that was a great experience.
SLAM: At what point did you start dabbling in social media stuff?
BA: During that whole time, I was on Vine. I’ve always done funny videos, just funny little skits on there. When I got back home from Australia, I was still doing the social media thing, and I had a couple of teams hit my agent up, but I was also getting booked for different events—little Vine tours, meet and greets at malls, club appearances, things like that.
Fast forward a couple of months to 2015, and that’s when I started transferring a lot of my content to Instagram, because it was longer, and it just went from there. It was mostly straight comedy, just a little basketball stuff here and there, but not much. “White people be like,” different stuff like that. The one that I was really known for was “How white girls take pictures.” That was on Buzzfeed and YouTube. That was the stuff that people knew me from outside of basketball.
SLAM: At this point, were you more focused on trying to break through in entertainment than hoops?
BA: I was just going with the flow. If I’d gotten a call from a team, I’d look ’em over. But I had an opportunity to go out to Los Angeles and meet Russell Simmons. I told him what I did, and he was like, “Oh, you play basketball?” He was like, “What do you want to do?” I was like, I want to be the top entertainer in the business. He gave me his number, but I haven’t hit him up yet. I want to be established first.
SLAM: Looks like you might be hitting that point now. You’re everywhere.
BA: Yeah, it’s probably about that time to send Russ a text. “Yo, Unc…” I think it’s about that time.
SLAM: The hoop imitations are what’s really blown up for you. What was your breakthrough vid?
BA: It all started with the LeBron James fast break. That was my idea, and my boy @Famouslos32, he does a lot of these as well. He also originated the James Harden one. But when the LeBron one went so crazy, it was like, “OK, this is what my followers like.” That’s when I came with the Westbrook, and it just blew up, major. That’s when it really started. It’s only been about two weeks, but it seems so long ago.
— B.A. (@BdotAdot5) July 18, 2015
SLAM: One of the things that made the Westbrook vid so big was that Russ saw it and responded.
BA: Yeah. I’m guessing his mentions were going crazy, but I’m also really good friends with Ant Morrow, that’s one of my boys, and I knew he was gonna find a way for Westbrook to see it. He was like, “Durant really likes the video.” Him and Westbrook, they’re always on their phones.
— B.A. (@BdotAdot5) July 13, 2015
SLAM: You’ve hit a lot of dudes by now: Derrick Rose, Tim Duncan, and of course the Harden video went crazy this week.
BA: The Rose one, after he hit that game-winning shot, and he had no facial expression. That was pretty funny, probably one of my favorites.
Derrick Rose facial expression NEVER changes not even when he hits a game winner! 😂😂 •Tag A Bulls Fan • Tag A Hooper pic.twitter.com/osPXrB1Yam
— B.A. (@BdotAdot5) July 16, 2015
SLAM: Other than Westbrook, have you heard from any of these guys?
BA: Well, not LeBron, ’cause you know he goes Zero Dark 30 in the Playoffs. And I haven’t heard from Harden, but I know he’s seen it. He has to.
— B.A. (@BdotAdot5) July 22, 2015
SLAM: Who are the dudes in the videos with you?
BA: That’s actually my manager, Jeremy Halbert-Harris, and my younger cousin, Jared Maner. I’m an only child, it was just me and my mom coming up, and I needed someone to play defense to make it more realistic. Jared just finished his freshman year at Morehouse College, and he’s really, really good at baseball.
SLAM: So what do you look for when you’re going to decide who to parody?
BA: Just basically finding the players who have particular features, unique characteristics and antics I could imitate.
SLAM: Right—the guys you’ve gone with are all instantly identifiable to any serious fan. But are you putting in film time, really studying to nail their moves and mannerisms?
BA: No, it’s second nature, honestly. I’ve been watching those guys for a long time, just as a basketball fan in general. With Westbrook especially being one of my favorite players, and then Harden, it was just second nature. I did a little research on Harden as far as which foot he steps back with, but that’s it.
SLAM: When did you realize you had this talent for impersonation?
BA: I would do it all the time in practice, or when I’d go play pick-up with the boys. “Who are you gonna be today?” “I’m gonna be JR Smith.” “Alright, who you gonna be?” “I’ll be Westbrook.” That’s really how it is.
SLAM: So the obvious question: Who’s next on your list?
BA: I don’t want to give any particulars, but I have a couple in mind: Kobe, Paul Pierce, Michael Jordan… and I have to do Steph. Steph is actually my favorite player in the NBA, because I like to shoot the ball. I like to shoot threes. I don’t shoot twos that much.
SLAM: You must get people suggesting dudes, too.
BA: I get crazy suggestions. Some players I wouldn’t even think of imitating, like somebody told me to do Kawhi Leonard. I’m like, He doesn’t do anything! But it’s cool. I appreciate the help.
SLAM: At some point, you’re going to have to throw a white dude in there.
BA: I know. People have been requesting Scalabrine, or Dirk. I would have to look at Dirk a little bit closer. Ginobili, he’s a character, so I could probably find something funny and twisted with Manu. And maybe Dellavedova… they’re on my list.
SLAM: So what’s next for you career wise?
BA: Like I said, I’m just going with the flow right now, and whatever opportunities come up, I’ll definitely entertain. There’s really no long game right now. I’m just taking it day by day, keep creating a buzz.
SLAM: Are you still enjoying it? You’ve got expectations now, that could be a drag.
BA: Oh, I’m enjoying it. I get to wake up any time I want, and I just get to be me. I don’t feel any pressure.
SLAM: Does this mean your serious playing days are over?
BA: That’s what I’ve been thinking about. That’d be tough. The social media, I’m going with it right now, but if a team came in, I’d have to sit down and evaluate it. It’d probably have to be the NBA. I wouldn’t mind being that Kent Bazemore, that 12th guy on the bench.
But the dream, really, I like the entertainment business. It’s cut-throat like basketball, so I’m not going to say it’s easy, but it’s easier. It’s not as much wear and tear on my body, definitely. But I want to be one of the best and most-known entertainers in the business. Whether that’s comedy, drama, whatever, I don’t care. For now, they label me as the NBA impersonator, but if it’s bringing people in, I don’t mind. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
Ryan Jones is a Contributing Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @thefarmerjones.