A few weeks ago, 24 guys were going about their daily lives — working, going to school, hanging with their families, and playing a little ball at their local gyms and courts. But today, their lives have changed. They now hold spots on two of the most coveted teams in amateur basketball. Coached by NBA greats Kobe Bryant, LeBron James along with Andrea Bargnani, Al Horford, Omri Casspi, and Serge Ibaka, these contestants will compete in The Sprite Uncontainable Game in Houston during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
The Uncontainable Game is the culmination of a worldwide search for the most expressive amateur ballers. Hopefuls in North America posted videos showcasing their most Uncontainable moves, and James and Bryant handpicked the 24 best for their respective teams. The winners will play on either James’ Team Sudden or Bryant’s Team Intense.
Not only will they get to show off their best moves on a national stage in front of NBA superstars, they’ll also get the VIP celebrity treatment, meeting basketball legends, taking in the sights, lounging in their hotel suites and attending the All-Star game. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Julianne Edelberg, Sprite program manager.
But they earned it.
Ready to meet them? Here are the first seven:
Troy McCray is the captain of Team Intense, but this isn’t his first time in the limelight: In 2009 he was also one of the Sprite Slam Dunk All-Stars, the amateur basketball competition where players show off their dunking moves. McCray’s mad skills earned him the nickname Rudeboi because his dunks are “just rude.” In between working as a manager at a flooring and furniture store and coaching high school track, McCray’s been running hills and trails so he can play hard on both ends of the floor. “A strong defense can help take some of the pressure off the offensive side of the game,” he says. As captain of Team Intense, McCray hopes to lead by example: “I expect everyone on our team to play hard and work together, so that's exactly what I'll be doing from the start.”
Since winning his first award for sportsmanship in high school, Jamil Drummond has been racking up the accolades, including a four-year consecutive run in the Hoop-it-Up Slam Dunk Contest. And his job as an instructor at a recreation center helps keep his skills sharp. “Whenever I get a chance, I play in pick-up games or just shoot around,” he says — that is, when he’s not being a family man to his wife and two sons. Drummond also stays busy as a lifeguard at a community pool and enjoys dancing and roller skating in his free time. As captain for Team Sudden, Drummond hopes to lead by positive example on the court and listen to his teammates. “I want all of us to stand out in this game, and the best way to accomplish that is by winning!”
When he’s not entering slam dunk competitions (and winning them), James Hinnant is the Nutritional Services Assistant at a medical treatment center, and in the evenings he plays ball for the Magic in the North Carolina Fellowship Basketball Association (NCFBA). He also writes and produces his own music. Known as the Quiet Storm on the court because teammates say he’s like a silent assassin, Hinnant credits his father with teaching him his skills. Opponents should watch out for his first step. “I can be very elusive before I even dribble the ball,” he says. But he doesn’t like to steal the spotlight. “I’m a facilitator first. I love to see my teammates score the ball.”
Don’t let his young age fool you — Andrew Pickwell, or “Pick” as he’s known on the court, was all-conference his senior year in high school and has already won three slam-dunk competitions. The junior at Carson-Newman College studying dietetics and nutrition is looking forward to being coached by LeBron, whom he’s been a huge fan of since 2005. “He’s fun to watch. I love the way he dominates the game,” says Pickwell. When he’s not hanging out with his girlfriend, playing guitar or filming and editing videos, he’s running more to get in even better shape so he can play his hardest at the Game. “I hope to pull down a lot of rebounds and get some dunks that will pump up my team,” he says.
Chases Skinkis started playing ball at 9 years old for his local YMCA youth league. Since graduating high school, he’s competed all over the world, including the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) 3-on-3 event in Moscow. When he’s not on the court, Skinkis works at an environmental and geotechnical engineering firm and spends time with his wife, Lacey. The two are expecting their first child in May. Opponents should watch out for Skinkis’ crossovers and no-look passes. “I take pride in putting others in a position to score,” he says.
Brandon LaCue plays ball six days a week, which may be partly why he won the Sprite Slam Dunk competition three years in a row starting in 2010. In high school and junior college, he led his teams to a total of four championships and then went south of the border to Mexico to play for Saucillo, a team in the Latin basketball league. He currently tours the country doing dunk shows with AND1 Live, a traveling street ball competition and exhibition. Known as Werm on the court for all the crazy moves he can do while dunking, LaCue looks up to Lebron James for his likewise ability to fly through the air. In between spending time with his two kids, he’s continuing to hit the court hard to get ready for the Game so he can make good on his strategy: “When I have a chance to score, I will score.”
After playing three years of ball at Southfield High School in Southfield, Michigan, Christon Staples went on to play for the USA All-Stars International Basketball League, as well as teams in the Philippines and Barcelona, Spain. Off the court, Staples works at a rehab facility for people with traumatic brain injuries and spends his free time in local pool halls sharpening his billiards game. So what’s he most looking forward to in Houston? Showing off his dunking skills to both LeBron and Kobe. “Not a lot of people can say that,” he says. Staples hopes to help his team by “just staying positive and having fun — and hopefully catching someone slipping under the rim and making a ESPN top 10 highlight out of them!”
Since he was 8 years old, Jesse Piercey has lived and breathed basketball, playing for all his school teams, including Laurentian University where he was Rookie of the Year. Now, when he’s not touring North America for his day job as a professional pool player or hanging out with his girlfriend, Piercey plays ball for two local Ontario leagues. “I am doing everything I can to prepare to be able to give my best performance! I’m going to the gym, doing my drills, getting my shots up and also focusing on the mental components of my game. I can’t wait to get on the court to show my skills.”