The disbelief and amazement in Porter Maberry’s voice is evident.
“It’s crazy I have fans now, and when I come places they actually know who I am and I’m signing autographs for kids,” Maberry said. “I was in an airport in Chicago and I just had on one of my shirts that has my twitter name on it, and three little kids came running up to me and playing my video. They asked for my autograph and it was just surreal. I can’t explain it. It’s a great feeling though. I still feel like I’m normal and the same person because it’s only been a year.”
Just a touch over a year ago, Porter Maberry was just like many other 22-year-olds trying to figure out where they fit into the real world—and obviously completely void of autograph seekers.
Following a two-year varsity hoops career at Ottawa Hills in Grand Rapids, MI, he had an offer to play at a small school in Kansas but opted not to go to because he didn’t want to leave home. He spent the next three years bouncing around random jobs working in warehouses, clothing stores or factories and was working at Steelcase in their warehouse last summer.
He took home the Gus Macker dunk contest championship in South Haven one weekend toward the end of July 2012, a grand in cash and was back at his job the following Monday.
On August 1 2012, he posted a video of some of his dunks from the tourney YouTube and sent a link to Team Flight Brothers—a group of professional dunkers who travel around the world putting on shows—and he was contacted by the group soon after. The quick response time was because Maberry’s 5-5 height separates him from just about any other dunk champ from the league to the street.
“They asked me how tall I was, and they didn’t believe me,” Maberry said. “Usually when people say they’re 5-9 or 5-10, they probably like 6-1 or 6-2. Just meeting all these dunkers, I’ve found that to be true. So when I get around, they’re all like, ‘You’re really 5-5.’ I think my height is why I have gotten all this exposure.”
Maberry’s first video posted from his own channel still only has a meager 528 views, but after traveling to Dayton, OH, for a dunk session with some of Team Flight Brothers a video was posted on September 25, 2012 from the TFB channel featuring solely Maberry. The video accumulated close to 600,000 views basically overnight—currently has 2,105,000 views—and he began to see it on the front page of Yahoo, on Worldstar and featured on Good Morning America.
“Man, I couldn’t believe it,” Maberry said. “I couldn’t stop smiling. I think my cheeks were hurting from smiling.”
Still, he was a Steelcase employee enjoying a drastic change of pace thanks to a dunk video gone viral but wasn’t remotely considering the changes it would have on his life. Someone from the advertising agency hired by Samsung reached out to Team Flight Brothers regarding Maberry a month later, and it was then he realized being able to dunk a basketball in the fashion he could, standing 5-5, could open doors he didn’t previously think were possible.
For the first time in his life, Maberry flew on a plane on a trip out to California to meet with the agency and figured out an agreement for one of his clips to appear in a Samsung commercial featuring LeBron James. Unaware of when the commercial would air, Maberry was at work watching opening night of the NBA when his life changed yet again and his celebrity grew a little bit larger. As brief as his appearance was in the commercial, it had as large an impact on his new career path.
“I didn’t even know until the commercial came out,” Maberry said. “It was the start of the season, and the Heat were on for like the first game of the season so that commercial was huge because a lot of people are watching the first game of the season.
“So when it came on I just went crazy. I was in an office, and I was screaming, and the guy I was with was like, ‘You’ve got to calm down.’”
Maberry decided to leave his job at Steelcase and pursue a living aided by the intrigue of seeing someone so small rise so high.
Since going out to California on a business trip, he’s been hired and flown out to Seattle, Florida, Kentucky, Kansas and Louisiana, among other states, to wow onlookers by throwing down. FILA flew him out for a show in Romania and Amsterdam.
He dunked in the AND 1 show at NBA All-Star Weekend, and was hired for shows at the Superbowl and the ESPYs. APL, a shoe which is banned from the NBA because it has a spring in it, recently signed him to a one-year shoe deal.
“People don’t believe I’m 5-5 and can dunk, so I’ve had an advantage of getting more shows than some other dunkers,” Maberry said. “I’ve been booking everything and all the celebrity games myself. I just use Facebook and Twitter to find out who’s doing the PR for these events, and then I’ll send them my stuff. They’ll fly me out, then pay me just to do a couple of dunks for entertainment.”
In late June he won Blake Griffin and Red Bull’s contest for showing off his best dunk, and will have a chance to either toss or receive a lob from the Clippers’ All-Star. Maberry says he’s in talks with Red Bull for some kind of deal himself, but he said he’s been networking everywhere he’s gone because he’s not ready to go back to having a normal, everyday job.
“I’m trying to branch off into everything, because I know this dunking isn’t going to last forever,” Maberry said. “At Mario Chalmers’ celebrity game in Kansas, I ended up linking with Micah Lancaster. He runs basketball skill training camps, and also helps Jacob Tucker with his jump camp. We talked about me doing a camp tour, so that could be another thing I could do too when the dunking stops – just teaching kids how to do different vertical exercises and some motivational speaking.”
Most recently Maberry flew out to Delaware for Brandy’s celebrity All-Star game, and has another FILA event on the horizon in Puerto Rico.
Before he figures out his next move once his career as a internationally known dunk artist concludes, Maberry is just trying to enjoy the ride that’s taken him all over the country and let him shoot the breeze with entertainers ranging from Mack Maine to Chalmers. The 23-year-old is usually in a different state every other week, and now signing autographs at airports; a daily grind much different than that of his a year ago loading and unloading office furniture in a warehouse—which allowed him to be just bored enough to decide to post a YouTube video of his dunk contest win at Gus Macker.
“It’s a blessing,” Maberry said. “It’s surreal. I’ve been meeting all these different celebrities, and people I’ve seen on TV like NBA players and realize they’re regular people just like us. I get the wow factor of being around celebrities still, but I’ve been around them so much in the last year and I know it’s just dunking and can all be taken away with one bad land. So I’m just taking it day-by-day.”