Kenny Dobbs shows off his dunking talents at Bloomer Sullivan Arena on the campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Slam dunk success with a message:
Choctaw Kenny Dobbs inspiring youth on and off the court.
In the history of the Choctaw people, many have risen to success in their field of expertise, but one Choctaw in particular has leaped above the rest to success, a 48-inch vertical leap to be exact.
Phoenix native and slam dunk champion Kenny Dobbs spent some time in the Durant area recently to attend the Madness in March All-Indian Basketball tournament, bringing with him gravity-defying dunks and an encouraging testimony of his rise to success.
Searching “Kenny Dobbs” on youtube or google will quickly flood the screen with jaw-dropping slam-dunks. Kenny is a heavily decorated slam-dunk contest champion and dunk inventor with the title of 2010 Phoenix Sprite Slam Dunk Champion, 2011 Sprite LA Slam Dunk Champion and 2011 “Ball Up/ Streetball” Slam Dunk Champion as just a few bullet points on his resumé.
As a member of the Choctaw Nation, Kenny was delighted to spend time in the Choctaw Nation. He was able to meet with Chief Gregory E. Pyle and even get his basketball signed. Kenny was brought to Durant by Ivy Bridge College as a celebrity guest for the Madness in March event to serve as a motivation for the youth to create positive goals in their lives and pursue those goals with diligence.
Kenny was chosen to speak to the participants of Madness in March because his story was not always one of success. Kenny had to overcome tremendous odds to get where he is today, and at one point he could describe his life in one word: “hopeless.” His ability to find the drive to overcome a hopeless situation and his ability to dunk a basketball while jumping over four people was a combination that sparked interest in all ages.
Kenny grew up in a gang atmosphere, becoming involved in drugs and alcohol at a young age. He spent his time with a group of friends who kept his aspirations at bay and damaged his hopes of playing professional sports, a dream he had as a little boy.
He spent his time concerned with partying, which led him to be expelled from his home at the age of 15. His education suffered and he was not able to play high school sports, which severely lowered his chances to play anything past the street court.
All of his reckless activity came to a climax at the age of 17, when he and several friends were involved in a robbery. Those with him were caught while Kenny escaped. His accomplices reported him as the main culprit and divulged his location to law enforcement. Kenny was arrested and was told he would be tried as an adult.
As he sat in jail awaiting trial he began to seriously consider the choices in his life. He began to realize he needed to make changes. “I cried out to God,” said Kenny as he told how he began ask God to help him out of this situation and promised Him that he would make those changes he knew he needed. “I went from being this hardcore thug little man, to being a scared little boy that just wanted his momma to hold him,” continued Kenny as he described his desperation.
When Kenny had his day in court, his prayers had been answered. Both the witness of the crime and police officer who was set to testify failed to show up in court that day, and the others involved owned up to their portion of the crime, granting Kenny only fines and no jail time.
“My attorney looked to me and he said, ‘ It’s a miracle that you aren’t going to prison.’ And when he said that, it was a remembrance of the month before when I was sitting in the jail cell and crying out to God, making a promise,” exclaimed Kenny. From this point he knew he would have to make those changes he had promised to make.
His first goal was to finish high school. He had dropped out around the time he was kicked out of his home with only three credit hours. He had the option for a GED, but as one of the eldest in the generation of his family, he wanted to be an example and get his diploma. He now had the goal, but those influences which brought him down before were still holding him back.
One night while Kenny was out, his sister was sleeping in his bed and bullets began to fly through the window all around her. No one was injured, but as the next day dawned, he came home to over 30 shell casings and bullet holes covering the section of the house where he usually spent his time.
He looked over his room, seeing bullet holes in posters depicting violence and drug abuse and realized these influences and the associations with certain people were not only endangering his future and life, but his family as well. He then came to the conclusion that the first step in meeting his goal was to cleanse his life of those influences which brought him down.
Though he endured criticism for his it, he made known his decision saying, ”I have a plan and a purpose for my life and I am not going to waste it.” He cut out those people from his life and began to focus and work like he never had before. He needed 22 credits to graduate high school and did not want to spend three and a half years earning them, so he hit the books hard.
He enrolled in a program allowing him to attend school from 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. “When I got out of school, I would take home these great big books and have to read about five chapters, and then take a test online,” said Kenny as he remembered his studies He would write the words “diploma” and “graduation” above his door, so when he woke up he would be reminded of his goal and keep himself motivated.
Each of his tests was worth a quarter of a credit, and after a year and a half of solid schooling without breaks or vacation, he had finished his high school education. He had completed his first major goal and tasted success. He then knew he could do anything and used this experience as the blueprint for all his future accomplishments.
His next goal was college. He attempted to get sport scholarships with several schools, but without a high school resumé and coaching, none would look at him. Eventually he got his shot while talking with Glendale Community College. It happened by chance they were doing a scrimmage while Kenny was visiting and they let him hit the court. He did not fail to impress and was signed soon after.
This was his first experience with a real team and actual coaching. It improved his knowledge of his body and abilities. He began to jump higher and gain a greater ability to dunk. He took these improvements to a local “Hoop It Up” dunk competition. He won this competition with ease.
Shaquille O’Neil’s cousin happened to be at that event and invited Kenny to compete in a dunk event in Las Angeles promoting Shaq’s new shoe, Dunkman. This was Kenny’s first time against major opposition.
As he stretched and readied himself for action he watched many opponents complete impressive dunks during the warmup. He began to feel nervous and unconfident, dreading his turn on the court.
Inspiration came when the match began. He noticed the others were doing the exact same dunks in the main event they were doing in practice. He realized he had seen them at their best already and there was nothing else to expect from them while he still had many tricks up his sleeve.
After slamming down an off-the-backboard windmill dunk, “the crowd went crazy and these guy’s jaws dropped,” explained Kenny as he told how he won the event. “After that point, I realized, never doubt in myself again, never let somebody intimidate me to take me out of my game plan,” he continued.
As he emerged victorious, Kenny witnessed the excitement in the crowd, especially with the youth. He began to think about how he could impress and captivate audiences with his talents, and the potential he had with that attention. He thought of how dunking was the most attention-getting action in the game of basketball and explored the potential to intertwine his testimony with his talent.
While he was completing this high school education, he was also growing his faith in God by becoming involved in discipleship classes. This strengthened his faith, boosted his confidence and allowed him to begin spreading his words of encouragement to those who were currently in the negative situations he knew too well. At the age of 19 he became a youth pastor for Glory to the Lord Church.
He had continued working with troubled youth up to this point, steering them away from the kinds of ways he once knew and on to a path of success. He had done considerable work in the Phoenix area to forward his message, and as he won this particular completion, he realized the most effective medium he had to deliver it.
He resolved to become “the best slam dunk artist in the world.” With that title he would be able to travel many places, impress many people and most of all, spread his inspiration more than ever. With his next goal in mind, the climb to the top began.
Since that time Kenny has soared above the opposition, dedicated his body to training and his time to spreading his message of encouragement. He has sustained a considerable wrist injury that took months to heal, a leg injury from which some thought he would never completely recover, and a head injury he sustained from the rim during a competition which he went on to win; all experiences which he uses to illustrate how perseverance and hard work will overcome obstacles hindering progress.
He has played with teams overseas, performed in sold-out arenas and won the armature slam-dunk contest at the NBA All Star Weekend. He had offers to play for big bucks internationally, sign contracts with sponsors, and offers to try out for professional basketball.
He has turned down these offers to be able to keep performing for youth so he can motivate them to stay in school and away from negative lifestyles. During the year of 2011 he devoted more time to Native American lands, attempting to help out those with a similar cultural background to his own.
Now that he has been at this mission for some time, he is beginning to see his work pay off. The youth he has spoke to now contact him and let him know his influence helped their situation considerably.
“That is what keeps me passionate… no amount of money that I can get paid is going to be able to equal the sense of saving these young peoples’ lives and encouraging them,” said Dobbs “Hearing these stories is letting me know that I truly am having a huge impact in these young people’s lives and I wouldn’t trade that for anything,“ he continued.
To pursue his goal of being the best basketball dunker, he postponed his college career for a time, but has recently enrolled with Ivy Bridge College and can take classes online anywhere he travels. He shares this fact to parents in the crowd at his shows, telling them it is never too late for education.
Kenny is a parent himself. He and his wife, Danae, are the proud parents of two daughters, Uriah, 6, and Audrina, 3. He takes delight in the fact that his daughters are showing promise in basketball much like he did during his youth.
Kenny hopes to finish his degree and become well versed-in political sciences, noting that he is currently able to affect the youth by relating to them, steering them towards a positive path, but he desires to take on more responsibility in the policy aspect. He hopes with a better knowledge of the politics, he will be able to make situations like those of his youth less prominent among the youth of tomorrow.