It’s the dream of every amateur baller around the world: You're at the local court during a late-night pick-up game, and you’ve just made the sickest crossover dribble to get your defender to jump back. That’s followed up with a one-handed jam, which leaves everyone screaming and giving out chest bumps after you’re done hanging from the rim. It’s so incredible, the game has to be stopped to give you props.
As you head back to play defense, the game stays frozen as everyone gets quiet. The sea of players parts … to reveal the Miami Heat's LeBron James as he walks onto the court — he hands you a jersey and says, “I want you on my team.”
It’s time to wake up — but for 24 talented players, that dream will be a reality.
A Worldwide Search for Great Ballers
James and the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant will be the coaches for the Sprite Uncontainable Game in Houston during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend in 2013. The Heat star will be the head coach for Team Sudden, while the Lakers legend will square off against him, leading Team Intense. They’ve got some help too: NBA players Andrea Bargnani and Al Horford will help coach Team Intense, and Omri Casspi and Serge Ibaka will assist for Team Sudden.
The worldwide search for amateurs took place in Mexico, Estonia, Lithuania, China, India, the Philippines, Canada, Puerto Rico, Taiwan and, of course, the birthplace of modern basketball, the United States.
"The hope for [the Uncontainable Game] is Sprite would provide this once-in-a-lifetime unique opportunity," says Sprite Global IMC Manager Allison Hill. "I can’t imagine anything better than a baller from India or a baller from the Philippines that will travel around the world and have Kobe and LeBron coach them in a game."
Anyone with unreal court creativity had options. Contenders were allowed to post videos with their most uncontainable moves, or they could qualify through local tournaments and events.
The first round of cuts have been made, and "King James" and "Black Mamba" even visited the campus at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in August, to surprise a group of Uncontainable contenders. At that time, the coaches chose captains for each of their teams and gave the players a little taste of just how tough they’ll be.
The difference between the two teams? James and Team Sudden are on the hunt for strong, tough players, while Bryant’s Intense squad is looking for ballers with precision and dexterity.
“We’re more of the chess players, I guess you would say,” Bryant said in an interview last February. “We’re more the thinkers, with a kind of analytical approach to the game.”
An Intense Competition, Judged by You
The idea of taking the search around the world appealed to Bryant's roots, he says. “Basketball’s become such a global sport. When I was growing up overseas in Italy, the game used to be on delay, and it would come on the day after,” the 16-year-vet remembers. “Now it’s so global you have live televised games. Kids everywhere are playing, so it only makes sense for this concept to be a global one."
So what’s the next step to narrow down the final 24 players who will show off their moves in front of the world next year? The finalists each have their own video in the Global Gallery on the Uncontainable Game’s site with an Intensity Meter measuring just how incredible they are. If you share one of the videos or hit the “like” button, the Intensity Meter shoots up. Though the final say goes to the judges, you could sway their decision and change the makeup of the rosters by the time they’re announced this January.
It all depends on what kind of moves you prefer. Some of the players are high flyers like Chase Skinkis, who stands at only 6 feet but has the ability to jump like no other.
If you're a fan of sick 'did-you-see-that?' passes, you may choose to crank up the Intensity Meter for Bruce Manley, who tosses rocks off walls and telephone poles while on the run. The finale of his audition tape is perfect: a behind-the-back pinpoint alley-oop thrown from a parking lot.
There will almost certainly be some amateurs who will put on a clinic in dribbling, from crossovers that break ankles to dekes that send defenders back. Those are the skills Genmar Bragais from the Philippines has in his arsenal.
All of that encompasses exactly what “uncontainable” is: crazy hoops skills that will help contribute to the winning squad in February.
"What we love about the Sprite Uncontainable Game is that it allows teens to have fun and express who they truly are through their passion for the game" Sprite Global Brand Director Diego Recalde says."At the same time, the program, as part of our long-standing partnership with the NBA, provides an authentic expression of Sprite's brand values to support and promote urban teens' active lifestyles."
With the click of a mouse, the fate of an amateur baller could be decided. And one of those players could live out his dream.
More on Journey
- A Q&A With Johanna Pramstaller, Special Olympics Global Messenger
- A Slice of Coca-Cola History: Beloved Kentucky Bottling Plant Reborn as Mellow Mushroom Pizzeria
- From One Fan to Another: The Story Behind Unbox Therapy's Coca-Cola Cooler
- Photos: Coca-Cola Celebrates Start of Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017
- The Story of Frank O'Hara's ‘Having a Coke With You’ Poem