A Texas Author’s Quest to Dunk A Basketball

“Year of the Dunk” is part memoir, part history, part science experiment.

By Laura RiceJune 22, 2015 8:55 am| ,

The game is tied. There’s five seconds left on the clock. A hush comes over the crowd and the defense seems to part as you make your way to the basket. You jump up and – your fantasy ends there.

Who are you kidding? Even in your wildest dreams you can’t dunk a basketball.

Or can you? That’s what Asher Price wanted to know. He writes about energy and the environment for the Austin American-Statesman, so he took a scientific approach to his quest to dunk a basketball. He stopped by the Texas Standard to talk about his book – “Year of the Dunk.”

This isn’t just about The Dunk, right? It’s about stick–to–itiveness

I think we all harbor fantasies about what we might be capable of, whether it’s dunking a basketball or playing the violin or dancing ballet, or being a great mathematician. But a lot of us never really try.

And these are the kind of questions we start asking ourselves as we get into our thirties or forties or fifties: What sort of talents did we leave on the table?

So were you ever a basketball player?

No, not really … I’m a lousy basketball player.

Why was the dunk, the thing for you?

I remember being seven years old, watching Spud Webb from Dallas, winning the 1986 Slam Dunk Competition, and he wasn’t that much taller than I was. So the fact that little Spud Webb could do it was…always kind of inspiring…either you can dunk, or you can’t.

I guess you had to work out quite a bit?

Oh yeah, you had to work out a lot. And I actually despise working out, but I had to get a gym membership and I had to assemble a team of trainers…one of the trainers I had was an Olympic gold medal winning high-jumper, who lives in San Marcos, Charles Austin. So you had Charles Austin on one hand, who is this beautiful, graceful, effortless athlete, and me, on the other hand, kind of a sweaty beast, who is trying as much as I could to raise my vertical.

You thought you could do it, otherwise you never would have undertaken it?

Yeah, I mean, I’m not a small guy. I’m 6’2″, 6’2″ and a half.

And we’re talking 10 feet up?

That’s right, the rim is at ten feet, so you’ve got to launch your body, not only ten feet up, but a little bit higher to be able to stuff that ball through the hoop.

The project began as a lark, and the more I thought about it, the more serious I took it.

So you spent a year working on this. Did you ever hit a wall?

There were days when I really didn’t want to go to the gym, but I think…with some discipline, we can surprise ourselves, about how much we can improve.

How much of it is talent? And how much of it is just the will to make it happen?

There are a lot of basic facts that are important if you’re trying to dunk a basketball: things like height, muscle make-up, play big roles. But speaking metaphorically about trying to dunk a basketball, if you’ve got the will to do something, I think you can surprise yourself.

I mean, writing the book, that’s challenge enough! Forget about the dunk for a moment.

That’s true! It could just be called “Year of Writing a Book.”