Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hospitality in the UAE

Hospitality. The dictionary definition is: cordial reception, kindness in welcoming guests or strangers.

During our trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, we were definitely the recipients of massive doses of hospitality. KHP, the company that hosted us, has a roster of incredible people on it's team. From Marie, who greeted us at the airport, to Holly, who met us every morning with such a refreshing attitude, to Laura who took care of us at Formula 1 and Vicki, who tag-teamed with Laura, to Chloe and Silke, and Amanda. Each of these KHP team members contributed to making us feel special and there is something to be said for feeling like you are in good hands.

There were so many other wonderful people that were hospitable that reached out to us and made us feel special.

Fahd who went out of his way to insure that we had a great time in Abu Dhabi. The concerts to the rides to the hotel, to dinner, to just being kind and looking out for us. Thanks Fahd, you helped turn our visit into so much more.

Fadi who met us in Dubai and spent 1-1/2 days showing us the city and giving us background and insight and behind the scenes access and who sat in the emergency room and waited with us, when he could have been doing something so much more fun. Fadi, you are the man! We appreciate you.

Rachelle, you and Clint made Dubai even more cool. There is a sense that Dubai is all about appearance with little else. Yall gave our visit warmth and substance and at the end of the day a tall building or a huge fountain or massive mall just doesn't compare to becoming friends with special people. Thanks to you both.

Helena, Marwon, Swat Crew, Mighty 4, B-Boy Tommee, Jaffer, Nadim, Raz, Tom, MG, Dj Adned, DJ Chef, FireForce, Dan Magness, Mali, Sandra, Ola and so many more made our 2 weeks in the UAE an amazing experience and for that we are grateful to you all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010



We received some feedback from a school show that was done recently. Here is what a principal said,

“Our students loved the ACRODUNK performance. This was the first assembly the students have thanked me for afterwards.”

This is great feedback and in another letter from the faculty and students of this same school we were told,

“Amazing entertainment! We love ACRODUNK!...The students were captivated by the stunts as well as the personalities of the show. The message delivered by ACRODUNK was not only spoken with words but also demonstrated throughout the show....Great job ACRODUNK!...Keep up the great work and we look forward to watching your show become America’s favorite entertainment.”

“Captivated.” What a great way to describe their students reaction. This is the kind of message that tells us we are doing something right and encourages us to strive for excellence everytime we get the opportunity to perform in front of an audience.

We have been performing for schools for 15 years and are grateful for the many similar letters we have received over the years. What makes this one so cool is that neither I nor Greg Mueller were a part of this performance. Byron Thomas, Keith Brown and Sadiki Fuller were also not a part of this performance.

This performance was delivered by a team that had their first show together 3 and a half weeks prior to the show at this school. Greg (GT), Josh (3D) and Matt (Marzo) have been blowing up the spot during our SPORT OF THINKING school tour and show no signs of slowing down. While each of these guys has years of entertainment under his belt, it was only 1 month ago from the writing of this blog that they began working as a 3-man team to carry out this tour.

It would be easy to say the tour has been a success because of the systems we have in place for training and running the tour or the legacy we all strive to uphold. It would be easy to point to GT’s experience with school tours or each guys desire to be effective or even my and Greg Mueller’s influence. While all of those are part of it, I am excited to realize that most of the reason for the tour’s success is Chemistry and that these guys love what they do - and they are great at it!

There is real chemistry that exists between these guys on and off the court and when on the court, it is evident that they are having a blast and the audiences connect with that. Each of these guys has individual strengths that when combined make them a powerful force to be reckoned with.

I especially like that in the midst of the early mornings, the long stretches behind the steering wheel, the sleeping in a different bed almost every night, the non-breakaway rims, the heat, the cold, the aches, the pains, the warming up and cooling down and the missing of families and friends - GT, 3D and Marzo still have the desire to make the show better.

I salute GT, 3D and Marzo for taking ownership as they recruit young people into the Sport Of Thinking. Keep up the great work! The Legacy Continues.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Michael Jordan of Acrodunking

I read an article recently that referred to me, Jerry Burrell, as the Michael Jordan of Acrodunking. ( look at the December 8, 2008 posting) At first I thought, “Wow, that’s cool that someone appreciates what I do/have done enough to be generous with their praise.” Then as I thought about it, i began to see that this person’s opinion has some merit.

If you’re sensitve about these issues - this is where you begin to seethe and think “how dare he compare himself to Michael Jordan”, but if you will just walk with me maybe you will see that I did not make the comparison, I am just providing info to support it and maybe you will see the comparison without the emotion that currently has you bent out of shape.

Michael Jordan is one of many basketball players good enough to make it to the NBA and make a name for himself. He joined a sport that had been around for a while and took things to a higher level. He not only made a name for himself, he transformed himself over the years and in some ways transformed the game and those around him. I am one of a handful of athletes good enough to make it to the NBA mascot world that included a form of entertainment that had been around for a while and make a name for myself and in some ways transformed the game of NBA mascot dunking and those around me.

It goes without saying that with the help from Nike and his teammates, Michael Jordan became a household name and many would say he is the best to have ever played the game. He did things no one else did at the time but that many are doing now. He was relentless in his determination to win and this drove him to make things happen by any means necessary. People around him almost out of necessity became better players just to keep up.

He was not just an excellent individual player, he inspired those on his team to strive for excellence. He set the example for the kind of work that was necessary to be great. Physically he was gifted, but I will suggest that it was his mental acuity that led to his greatness. His attitude, his focus, his determination and his desire to win.

I am not an avid NBA fan but I know enough about Michael Jordan to know that it was his attitude, his work ethic and his passion for the game that made him who he was.

Back to the comparison.

Those who know me, know that I rarely toot my own horn. I will talk about ACRODUNK all day long and how awesome the team is but I rarely focus on my achievements. I let the videos, articles and others do the talking for me. Having said that, bear with me as the horn toots.

Prior to 1993, acrobatic slam dunk performers were not dunking from the free throw line. Very few ball transfers were being done and dunking without the trampoline by an NBA mascot was unheard of. From 1992 when I started dunking to 1995 when the Rockets won their second NBA Championship and I was dunking as TURBO, more innovations were introduced to the world of solo acrobatic slam dunking than the entire decade after that.

That is a bold statement, but I challenge anyone to refute it with facts, not opinion.

See the following:

Here is the partial list of acrobatic slam dunk innovations that were introduced during that 3 year span:

-Dunking from the free throw line and beyond

-Dunking from 1 mini trampoline to another mini trampoline (not double-mini)

-Flip dunking from 1 mini-trampoline to another mini-trampoline

-Flipping from the floor onto the mini trampoline into flip dunks

-Double transfers (Double thru the legs, around the back thru the legs, etc)

-Front flips with transfers (Front flip thru the legs, front flip double thru the legs)

-Roller blade dunks off ramp with transfers and alley oops

-Front flip dunks on roller blades off ramp

-Rappel dunks from the rafters

-Swinging rappel dunks from the rafters

-Two ball front flip dunks

-Two ball 360 dunks

-Layout and pike front flip dunks

-Back flip dunks off the backboard

-Back flip dunks off 16 foot ladder

-Front flip dunks through 12 x 8 ft paper banners

-Front flip dunks through banners with the basketball on the blind side of the banner

-Two-man dunk shows as part of mascot performance

-Creation of the blueprint for NBA dunk teams

-Front flip dunk over 10 ft. ladder

Many of these innovations that were introduced 15-17 years ago are still being done by acrobatic slam dunkers today and some are still refreshing to see.

With the founding of our acrobatic slam dunk team, the High “Impact” Squad in 1994 and later ACRODUNK, even more innovations to team acrobatic slam dunking were introduced. Team TURBO, the Houston Rockets Dunk Team (1996-2003) populated by members of the High “Impact” Squad is the reason there are so many NBA branded Dunk teams around the league.

Acrobatic slam dunkers around the world were studying whatever footage they could get their hands on of TURBO and the High “Impact” Squad.

This was pre-youtube, so it was “hard to get” footage. But it was out there and those who really wanted it were finding it.

I think the main point of comparison between myself and Michael Jordan is that in his game, he was doing things nobody else could come close to doing at the time and he was executing them on a consistent basis in pressure situations LIVE in front of audiences. There are players now that strive to stake their claim like Michael Jordan staked his. Michael Jordan in some ways changed the game of basketball and redefined what was possible.

I believe it is fair to say that in the acrobatic slam dunk game, WE did things nobody else could come close to doing at the time and WE did them season in and season out. There are acrobatic slam dunkers that now strive to stake their claim like WE staked ours. We changed the acrobatic slam dunk game and redefined what is possible.

See how I switched to WE. I was the person on the court performing the amazing but it was all the help off the court that made it possible. Guys like Winn Molnari, Eli Akin, Scott Budge, Kenny Smith, Bill Baptiste, John Leach and later the original members of the High “Impact” Squad - Sadiki Fuller, Keith Brown and Byron Thomas. Of course, I was inspired by Ty Cobb, the creator of acrobatic slam dunking, and his team of Daredevils. There are a couple of other “pioneers” that inspired me like Bob Woolf who made a name for the Phoenix Suns Gorilla and Mike Zerillo who put Super HUGO on the map for the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets. Both of these guys were teammates of mine at Arizona State University and they blazed trails that I was able to walk into.

Since the words ACRODUNKING, ACRODUNK and ACRODUNKER were coined by me, if there is a Michael Jordan of ACRODUNKING, why not me - the guy that not only changed the game but also coined the word.

So if someone thinks I could be the Michael Jordan of Acrodunking, who am I to argue against it. From this point forward, I embrace it.

I wonder if Michael Jordan gets told that he is the Jerry Burrell of basketball ; )

What do you think?


Monday, November 1, 2010


I met a guy recently who is entering his second season as an acrobatic slam dunker for an NBA team. Let's call him Danny (not his real name). He mentioned to me that when he saw ACRODUNK on America's Got Talent, he decided he wanted to do what we he saw us doing on the show. It just so happened that his local NBA team was having auditions to form a dunk team and he tried out. He made the team, got through one season and was now speaking to me at an event where he and his teammates were participating in a training session that myself and my teammates were facilitating.

As the training session transitioned to the point where Danny and his teammates began watching us rehearse, I noticed the look on Danny's face as he witnessed 4 of the top acrobatic slam dunkers in the world preparing for their show that night.

Gregory Mueller, Jason Skillern, Eddie Johnson and Jesus El were putting on a clinic that not only Danny and his teammates enjoyed but the players and staff of the college team we were performing for were recording on their phone cameras.

I realized what a blessing it is to be on the journey I am currently on. Sadiki Fuller was a member of our team who became the mascot for the Golden State Warriors. While at the Warriors, he trained Jesus and Eddie at the same time that Greg and Jason were being trained in Houston. If Sadiki and I were brothers in the ACRODUNK family, then what I and Danny were witnessing that night were ACRODUNK cousins that had taken things to whole new level.

From Greg Muellers fake out thru the leg dunk that seemed to float horizontally for minutes to Jason Skillern's reverse that made it appear like he jumped from the rafters. From Eddie Johnson's Eagle dunk (front flip with double through the leg transfer) to Jesus El's Pop Tart (toss to front flip to catch dunk) and Freeze Frame dunk ( Strike a pose mid-air dunk), the pre-show audience was getting a rare glimpse of the result of ACRODUNK ingenuity.

There is this trait that runs through the DNA of ACRODUNK that propels those who come through our system to not settle for less than their absolute best when it comes to being innovative and revolutionary. Danny, his teammates and I witnessed it on this occasion and I was forced to see that I get the opportunity to witness it everytime we hit the floor.

While we may have a set show structure and format which some teams have adopted as their own, I like the fact that guys will style it up from time to time with variations on finishes and passes. Sometimes it's the small things that turn a basic dunk into something much more entertaining. Like a slight turn of the head with the arm at a different angle to make what would have been a weak dunk into a quasi-reverse.

So as I watched Danny take it all in with a smile on his face, I couldn't help but notice that I was smiling too and for the same reason - Watching ACRODUNK perform is inspiring.