Alain Anderson, Sacramento Kings Dunker captain
No basketball move is quite as crowd-pleasing as a slam-dunk. So back-to-back-to-back dunks with flips and rollerblades and other stunts? That’s a slam-dunk, yo! These acrobatic dunking shows have a pretty short history—the Bud Light Daredevils was the first-ever of its kind, born out of the University of Mississippi cheerleading team in the early ’80s. And on-and-off for the past 14 years, Sacramento Kings Dunkers captain Alain Anderson has professionally dunked for the NBA. Basketball fans all over the country have seen his moves—Anderson’s resume includes stints with the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Clippers and even the Sacramento Monarchs circa 2008. SN&R grabbed a few minutes on the court with Anderson during pregame warm-ups to talk about stunts, mascots and advising kids to stay in school.
How’d you get your start?
I was a high school basketball player from Houston, Texas. Shortly after high school, I started working with the Rockets as their equipment guy, moving the trampoline and mat. The Rockets mascot said, “I can train you to do this.” And he trained me for a year, and after that I got a job in Oakland as the mascot.
Just one year? What was the training?
Well, I already knew how to handle a basketball. The hardest part for me was learning how to do flips and anything involving gymnastics. It was basically, “Here’s a trampoline and mat and when you flip, tuck your head and pull your feet.” That’s all it was. Do or die.
Do you consider yourself an athlete or entertainer?
I say entertainer. Basically because without having a mask on, you can’t have a bad day. When you step out in front of the fans, you gotta smile. Even if you miss, if you’re having a bad day, you have to smile because the fans are watching. If you look down, they’re gonna be down. If you’re not into it, they’re not gonna be into it.
How’s your basketball game these days?
My basketball game is all that. Well, actually, I’m not gonna lie. [Laughs] I got cut all through high school. That's what made me work so hard to be part of the NBA. I always wanted to play NBA but so many people were so much better than me. When I couldn't make it as a player, I wanted to make it in some other form. This was my next best bet.
How do you compare the life of a mascot with the life of dunker?
The life of a mascot is more private. Once you put on the suit, no one knows who you are. It’s all about going out, entertaining, going back in your dressing room and you’re done. As a dunker, people recognize you out in the city, they see you walking around the stands and want to stop and take pictures with you. There’s a little more “fame” to it, because people actually know your face. I actually kind of like the privacy of mascoting, but I do love dunking. Definitely.
Hardest dunking move you’ve pulled off?
Oh wow. I mean, there’s a bunch of them. But the fan favorite—also probably one of the most difficult—is a front flip. As I do it, I take my shirt off in mid-air and dunk it. … Of course, I have something on underneath.
I was there for the game when Slamson rollerbladed the ball to you at the trampoline. That was the first time, right?
Yeah, that was all about timing. Jumping over people is something I’ve done for years but Slamson and I had the idea where we wanted something to be moving. So we had him on rollerblades and I timed it perfectly to take the ball right from his hands.
You’re here a few games every month. Have you ever missed the basket?
It does happen. We try to make it as rare as possible. But if you miss one out of five, it just makes it look that much better when you come back again and make it.
That’s the spirit. When you do miss, can you tell while you’re in the air what went wrong?
Oh yeah. We know if it’s a bad pass, or if we got a bad jump. It’s not gonna go perfect every time. There’s referees, players walking across the court sometimes. There are so many variables. If we do a 100-percent show, fans don’t realize how hard that is to always make them all.