Everyone knows about LeBron James' struggles at the free throw line and his inconsistent jump shot. Now you can add one more weakness to the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar's game: the art of the trick shot.
James went head-to-head with former Capital University men's basketball player David Kalb in two games of "H-O-R-S-E", the game that requires a player to match his or her opponent's shots from a certain part of the court.
Not only did Kalb take down the recent Olympic gold medalist in the first game, he accepted LeBron's challenge to a rematch and proceeded to shut him out, giving LeBron all five letters without accruing one himself.
"I really believed I had a chance to beat him," Kalb said.
With a dizzying variety of shots from behind the basket, around and through the basket, the transplanted Bucyrus, Ohio native - he now resides in California where the games were played - earned his way into the spotlight on ESPN, being featured on SportsCenter's "Top 10 Plays" and getting discussed on shows like "Pardon the Interruption" and "First and 10".
"I heard [‘PTI' co-host] Tony Kornheiser was ripping on me, but I haven't seen it yet," Kalb said. "The media attention has been crazy. I've never done so many interviews in my life, and it seems weird getting all these phone calls."
So how did Kalb get to match up with one of the most recognizable faces in professional sports? Cub Cadet, for whom LeBron is a pitchman, sponsored a "Trick Shot Challenge" on its website, asking fans to create a video featuring their best basketball trick shots.
"A buddy of mine heard about it and called me," Kalb said. "I knew it was right up my alley."
So Kalb, who works in a warehouse, called up his brother and started planning his entry video. Kalb admitted that he was so excited about scheming his shots, he had problems sleeping.
"It was all I could think about," he said.
He and his brother eventually came up with the idea to put a basketball hoop on a forklift and start spinning it around, while attempting to bounce a ball off the wall and into the hoop. This was no easy feat; it took nearly an hour for him to successfully make that and a second shot, in which he did a backflip and bounced the ball 32 feet in the air and into the hoop.
Kalb learned at the end of July that his entry won, not only giving him $5,000 in Cub Cadet equipment, but a chance to match his basketball skills against LeBron's. Just winning the right to face off with LeBron seemed to be the hardest part, who didn't have a set plan in place come game day.
"I never specifically practiced any shots to use against him," Kalb said. "I play ‘H-O-R-S-E' a lot with my roommates [former Capital basketball players Evan Hartman and Kraig Frymier] so I just used the same shots we've been doing for years."
Tyler Schleich, who has known Kalb since high school and played with him at Capital, also wasn't surprised about the outcome. Hearing him talk, one almost feels sorry for LeBron for not knowing what he was getting into.
"I knew he would win based on the fact that I saw the things he did after practice
everyday," Schleich said. "He is the craftiest, most random guy I've ever met - and I mean that in a good way. On the grand scheme of things, the victory [may not be] a big deal, but for David Kalb to get not just his 15 minutes of fame but 24 hours and a lifetime of stories [is] just priceless."
Kalb's life, now well over a week removed from it, may have begun to settle down again, but it's the memory of a lifetime for him.
"[Capital's men's basketball coach] Damon Goodwin told me to cherish every moment of it, and I have," Kalb said. "And LeBron couldn't have been nicer, taking pictures and signing autographs with everyone who was there. It was just a great experience."
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!