by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
You’ve probably noticed Kenny Dobbs and his super fly long hair flying around and dunking on some BallisLife videos. His creative dunks and unique style have earned him the nickname “The Dunk Inventor” and the Phoenix native has worked extremely hard to be considered one of the best pure dunkers in the World.
Dobbs, along with NCAA dunk champ Jacob Tucker, are among the 10 semi-finalists in this year’s Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown—a cool nationwide search for the nation’s best amateur dunkers. Former NBA greats Dominique Wilkins and Darryl Dawkins have served as ambassadors for the program and it’s up to the fans to pick the four who will advance to the next round—be sure to cast your vote at NBA.com/dunk before voting closes on Friday. We recently caught up with Kenny via phone to get his thoughts on the contest and the art of dunking.
SLAM: Where did you attend high school?
Kenny Dobbs: I went to Independence High School and after that I got a full scholarship for a junior college out here called Glendale Community College and I started doing my own thing after that.
SLAM: When did you start playing ball?
KD: Eighth grade is when I really started playing basketball. I was playing football before that.
SLAM: Have you always had hops?
KD: I’ve always been athletic and fast. I played quarterback as a kid and I would switch to receiver if we really needed a touchdown. I think it was all the blessings, my genetics and I credit my hops to a lot of the things we did in football.
SLAM: Do you remember the first time you put down a clean dunk?
KD: It was summer of eighth grade going into freshman year. It was just a regular one-handed dunk off one foot. It landed and I was just pumped up. After that, I continued to jump and increase from there.
SLAM: How tall are you right now?
KD: I’m 6-3.
SLAM: I’ve seen your dunks from the Sprite contest and we have run some of your BallisLife videos on SLAMonline. You’re very artistic with your dunks. I really liked the one you put down at Cal State Fullerton over three people. That was insane.
KD: The between the legs one. Yeah, that’s one of my favorite dunks, a go-to. I plan on doing it over five people this year.
SLAM: How did you find out about the Sprite contest? Are you constantly searching for contests nationwide?
KD: I heard about it in 2009 and I had won the Shaquille O’Neal Dunk man contest in 2008 in L.A. A person contacted me and let me know that Sprite was doing something in L.A. I went out to the Sprite contest in 2009 and I did really well and won the contest but due to the voting, I lost to a guy from L.A. who had actually missed his last dunk. I did everything to win, but lost out voting wise. After that, I learned they were doing a travel type contest and the original guy they had in there was messing up, so I had an opportunity to get hired on with Sprite and started helping recruit dunkers while I traveled around with them. It was awesome.
SLAM: Did you start focusing on dunking after JuCo ball?
KD: I had always won local contests since I was 18. After winning the Shaq contest, it really opened my eyes to the dunk community that is out there. There were guys out there who focused strictly on practicing dunks. I was only dunking in games or practices so I was really unprepared for contests. I studied what was out there and what everybody else was doing. And then I set my mind to doing something different that would be better than everybody else. I kept pushing myself and set a goal to be the best.
SLAM: Do you consider dunking an art form?
KD: Yes, definitely. I tell the kids that everyone has potential and ability. It’s all about finding what that is. I see myself as an artist and that’s why I do so many different dunks to separate myself from everyone else.
SLAM: How often do you work on your dunks?
KD: I’m training on a daily basis. Today I didn’t dunk, but I got a massage, soaked in the jacuzzi, spent some time stretching. All of that has something to do with dunking because you need that flexibility in the air to do those spins and behind the leg kicks. Your body has to be in the right shape to perform those tricks.
SLAM: What do you tell the kids who ask you about improving their vertical?
KD: I never used to stretch; I would just go out and play basketball. The moment I started stretching, I began gaining a couple of inches on my vertical and I also realized I could continually jump a lot more. Instead of jumping eight times and going downhill from there, I was able to sustain it. Flexibility is a key. I show them some of my plyometric and isometric exercises—things that you don’t necessarily need a gym for. Some kids don’t have a gym membership and I was like that too growing up. I learned a lot of that from James Cooper, who used to be the strength and conditioning coach for the Lakers. Using your own body weight and pushing against objects that aren’t going to move—wall sits, forward lunges with resistance bands. I try to keep it simple for the kids to understand but mainly let them know that there is no shoe or anything like that to help you jump higher. It’s just a way of life—you must train on a daily basis. There is no miracle hops formula.
SLAM: How did your nickname come about?
KD: It came in 2009 as well. That was from the first BallisLife mix. I was doing different dunks and other variations of dunks that have been done. I never wanted to be doing the dunks anybody else was doing. I still have a ton of dunks and I’m getting ready to drop a new mix with new stuff. I’ve watched every NBA dunk contest that has ever gone down. Things that I see guys miss, I try to do my own rendition of. Or I take things that are popular like Vince Carter’s elbow hang. I’ll jump over somebody and elbow hang or windmill and then put the elbow in. Once I started putting those variations together guys were like, ‘he’s inventing all kinds of new dunks—he’s ‘The Dunk Inventor.’
SLAM: Who were the dunkers you looked up to?
KD: NBA-wise, it’s Vince Carter. That’s my dunking idol, my dunk mentor. Watching what he was able to do in the contest, bringing new content and perfect scores, hitting them on the first dunk. In the street ball industry, there isn’t a person I enjoy watching more than The Air Up There.
SLAM: You definitely also stand out because of your long hair. How long have you been growing it out?
KD: I wish I could cut it. It’s so hot in Phoenix! I’m just burning up with this 10 pounds of hair on my head. But like you said, it’s my trademark and I can’t really cut it. I’ve grown it for about seven years.
SLAM: I know shoes don’t make the dunker, but tell us what sneaks you like to leap in.
KD: I’m sponsored by Nike so I would have to say the Hyperdunks. Even before I was sponsored I was rocking those. Right now I’ve been doing a lot of dunks in the Nike N7 Air Max Destiny. They’re kind of like the LeBron South Beach blue and they have the air bubble for heel support. Since I jump so many times, I’m always landing on my heels and that air bubble gives some nice support for me.
SLAM: As far as the contest with Sprite, why should fans vote for you?
KD: Because I’m hungry. I was picked to win it last year and all the guys in it were talking so much trash. Those guys are all a part of a dunk crew and I was the only one to come up and challenge them. I started out great last year, got a perfect score after jumping over three people and going between the legs. But I cracked my wrist on the rim and later found out I ended up fracturing that bone. I rested it and came back two months later and beat those same guys in the Ball Up contest that was televised on Fox Sports. So now, there is a lot of trash talk going on and I’m hungry to come back with my new dunks. Hopefully this year they let me bring the car out. I’m ready to shock the world and give Blake Griffin a run for his money over the car. I got something a little better than going over the hood.