Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ordinary Teens, Legendary Shots

By Theresa Shadrix
Longleaf Style magazine
Winter 2010/2011

   Legends are usually born because people seem to have an internal hunger for accomplishment, even for greatness. We lift up those who are bigger than life or have excelled with high expectations. Not too many legends are born from boredom.

Carson Stalnaker, 17, is a typical teenager and it was a typical day five years ago that he and a group of friends were playing basketball in the driveway of his Hoover, Alabama home. “We were bored in my driveway and just started to shoot,” Stalnaker said.

Stalnaker and his neighborhood buddies were all around 12 years old when they bounced basketballs off his house or from his neighbor’s roof and into his portable basketball goal. The shots started off pretty simple and soon morphed into what seemed the impossible. The neighborhood boys probably all had dreams of playing in the NBA, but that wasn’t on their minds that day when they first attempted their shots. Instead, they wanted to get amazing basketball shots, ones they deemed “legendary,” on video so they could compile it into a DVD and sell it to the friends. As modern youth, they decided to upload the homemade videos to YouTube.

It was word of mouth and the click of the mouse that helped spread the word about the kids from Hoover with the “legendary” basketball shots. Since they called their video compilations “The Legendary Shots” that’s the name that stuck. Stalnaker and his basketball posse are quick to point out that they are not legends. “We are just normal kids,” he says.

From the driveway to YouTube, the boys and their shots piqued the interest of a public relations firm and their basketball shots were featured in national Hampton Inn ads. The first commercial aired in December 2008, then others ran in January and February 2009. A fourth one ran in January 2010.

More national attention came last year when Evan Sellers made a shot from atop the Vulcan stature in Birmingham in August 2010 and the “Legendary Shots” crew was crowned king of “The Farthest Basketball Shot.”

It’s interesting to note that a group of Texas A&M students started their own trick shot team called “Dude Perfect” in 2009 and they claim to have made the “World’s Longest Basketball Shot” from the third deck of Kyle Football field at Texas A&M in September 2009. Between fans, it’s a battle of “longest” versus “farthest.” The Dude Perfect team was selected in the most recent Hampton Inn ad too. But, you won’t hear any of the Legendary teens complaining and they refuse to say anything negative about Dude Perfect.

Stalnaker noted that they’ve been making these shots and posting them online for over five years and they aren’t out to make this into a contest. “We just want to have gas money to go to places and make shots.” He also noted, as did Stalnaker’s mom, Jill, that they don’t want to do this for the rest of their lives. The teens are all high achievers in academics and plan to go to college to pursue careers. “We all want to go to college,” John Massey said. “And we want to share the love of Christ.”

Dude Perfect is complimentary as well. “We want to support them. We think it’s cool that they use their platform to also glorify Christ.” said Tyler Toney, Dude Perfect Co-Founder. The Texas group mirrors the Alabama teens in more ways than trick shots uploaded on YouTube and Hampton Inn ads. Both groups have a strong Christian influence and raise money for charity with profits from advertising on YouTube. Stalnaker said they are supporters of Compassion International and Project125K, which seeks to assist orphans in the United States. Dude Perfect also sponsor children through Compassion International.

There are distinct differences between the two groups as well. The Legendary Shots are normally driven to locations by their parents, the only hint of management is Jill, and their website is far from flashy. They are, as Stalnaker likes to point out, just a group of teens that likes to have fun.

While Stalnaker and his friends may have changed physically in five years, not much has about the way they get the shot. In September, I witnessed first-hand as the teens attempted shots at Talladega Superspeedway. While only one teen can make the shot, others assemble a line to retrieve balls and help with direction. The Legendary Shot crew at Talladega was Carson Stalnaker, William Snoddy, Evan Sellers, Chase Martin, Jeffrey Higginbotham, Bryan Anderson and John Massey. Most of them grew up in the same neighborhood at Hoover. Martin and Stalnaker had a chance meeting with Sellers on a family vacation at Panama City about two years ago.

Of course, the youth bounced basketballs and filmed them and Sellers became a part of the Legendary crew. Sellers played basketball until 9th grade and was a quarterback at Pinson High School his junior year, until he suffered a back injury. He didn’t have to think twice about joining the group when they returned home. “It something we go out and do to have fun. It’s one of those hobbies we do.”

At Talladega Superspeedway, Stalnaker is clearly the one everyone looks to for guidance. After an interview with TV24, the boys began scouting possible shots at the track. The first shot, by William Snoddy, was on turn four on the track. But before that could happen, the boys had to pump air into a few of the 11 basketballs they had gathered from their homes .

Then, with the assistance of the dads, the goal was set up on the track. Snoddy climbed the 33-degree asphalt track and started bouncing balls. Everything is off the cuff and there were no painstaking measurements done by the boys. “Move a little to your right,” one would yell. “Hey, throw harder,” from another. Finally, after about 15 minutes, Snoddy made the basket on the 57th attempt and everyone, myself included, screamed with excitement.

The second shot by Stalnaker from the top of the Gadsden Tower, was, according to Talladega Superspeedway president, Grant Lynch, the tallest spot in Talladega County at 140 feet. Battling wind, gravity and a three-phase power line, the attempts were a little more risky. Lynch was a little nervous when the basketballs bounced off the ground and hit the power line a few times. After 45 minutes, Stalnaker made it on his 62nd shot. “I high-fived my mom,” he laughed.

A third attempt by Evan Sellers from the top of the Scoring Tower was halted because the wind became so intense and the teens really wanted to take a ride around the track in the pace car, courtesy of Talladega Superspeedway.

Rumors of the boys faking their shots hold no ground for everyone who witnessed the patience and perseverance from that day. And, they all point out patience is what it takes to make a legendary shot. “You gotta keep shooting. Don’t give up and keep trying,” Stalnaker advises.

And keep trying they will do indeed. Big Communications of Birmingham asked the group to make shots at various well-known landmarks in the Birmingham area. Stalnaker’s mom, Jill, said they will continue making legendary shots as “long as it doesn’t get in the way of grades.” Until then, they will be ordinary kids who just don’t want to be bored.

Check out the Legendary Shots on YouTube. Click here.
Theresa Shadrix is managing editor of Longleaf Style magazine and has yet to make a legendary shot.