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Hoop Dreams: Local goes from online sensation to nationwide phenomenon
BY Matt Welch, firstname.lastname@example.org
PLANO -- The purchase of a basketball goal at Academy Sports and Outdoors just might go down as the greatest investment in the life of Frisco resident and Plano Senior alumnus Cody Jones and his five roommates.
It began as a way to pass time between the group’s junior year at Texas A&M in spring 2009.
“We put [the goal] in our backyard,” said Jones, who was a member of the Wildcats 2005-06 Class 5A State Championship boys basketball team. “We didn’t have any cement and it was just a grass yard, so we couldn’t dribble. We just started shooting shots in the backyard and would be like ‘If I make this then you buy me lunch’ or something like that.
None of the roommates could have anticipated what the ensuing footage would blossom into.
Alongside friends Tyler Toney, Garrett Hilbert, Sean Townsend, Coby and Cory Cotton, Jones and the group have developed a reputation that now resonates nationwide for their famous array of trick basketball shots; all under the alias of Dude Perfect.
“Our camera guy, Sean, set the camera down on a ledge,” Jones said. “When he turned on the camera, Tyler was already in the frame and he just said ‘dude, perfect’ and said that he barely had to move the camera. When we went back to edit the video, we heard that the twins (Coby and Cory) had the mindset to brand this and called it Dude Perfect.”
That seamless intro prefaced the group’s first video, entitled the Backyard Edition and uploaded in April 2009, which was shot over the course of two afternoons and spanned from the guys’ backyard to a nearby park. The shots ran the gamut, including made baskets from the roof, a shot behind the back, snapped between the legs like a deep snapper and even some that didn’t require looking at the basket.
“The coolest one was the shot where [Toney] looks in the camera and whips it behind his head,” Jones said. “He looks in the camera and goes ‘this shot doesn’t have a name,’ then goes ‘hoo ha’ and then it swishes.”
Toney takes the bulk of the shots in the group’s first video and, according to Jones, acts as the go-to guy for the team’s repertoire of baskets.
A quarterback for Prosper in high school, Toney’s passing acumen is on display with Jones likening the skill set required for the Dude Perfect videos as having more of a football slant than a basketball one because of the lengths at which the ball is being hurled.
As is the natural recourse for anyone who records something of awe-inducing significance, the group uploaded their video to YouTube.
In a week’s time the video amassed 100,000 hits and currently sits at more than five million.
“To us, that was huge,” Jones said. “At the time, our goal was to have a million-hit video as one of our college dreams.”
Shortly after the video’s initial wave of success, the guys got their first taste of mainstream publicity with a call from Good Morning, America for an interview for a three-minute segment.
The arrow only pointed up from there.
Expanding their horizons
Starting with a montage shot one month later with the group putting in work from Toney’s ranch and extending into the summer with a video of baskets made during a summer camp stint at Sky Ranch in Van, the shots were a myriad of building blocks leading to what was then the most stuplifying one of them all.
“At that point, we had some pretty good momentum,” Jones said. “ESPN E:60 called us and said they wanted to do a segment over the group. We wanted to think of a cool idea and as me and Tyler were driving on A&M’s campus, he looks over and I was like ‘there’s no way.’
“He was looking at Kyle Field. He told me that if I could get him the key to the stadium that he could get in there and make a shot.”
Stadium personnel opened the gates for Dude Perfect, allowing Jones and Company to use the Aggies’ gridiron garden for an afternoon. Placing the goal on the stadium’s track, Toney began by hurling the ball from the second deck; a shot that was actually made in relatively short order. Ascending one deck higher, Toney hurled a basketball that eventually traveled 3.9 seconds for a perfect bank shot and was, to that point, billed as the world’s longest basket ever made.
“That was the one; it went on Yahoo’s homepage and really began it all,” Jones said. “It was only up for about six or eight hours, but in that time it got about three million hits.”
The nationwide acclaim the shot received was parlayed into a bevy of appearances for the group, including stints all throughout the ESPN staples of First Take, Pardon the Interruption, Around the Horn and SportsNation.
Not only that, but Dude Perfect had emerged at the forefront of an untapped market.
“This was really the first time trick shots had come through,” Jones said. “Nobody had really done many trick shots outside of a gym and it was really just a niche that nobody had ever caught on to.
“We looked it up and there were practically no videos on trick shots.”
Along the way, the group added new wrinkles to its ensemble, including a panda mascot that not only participated in the videos but even developed a cult following at A&M basketball games as a prominent front-row piece used for heckling visiting teams.
“We acted like [Panda] was a real person,” Jones said. “He’d come to the A&M basketball games and we’d get on the front row where he would help distract the other players; we’d distract someone like Blake Griffin when he was shooting free throws. People would bring big Panda-monium signs and signs of Panda’s face.”
And of course, the depths and heights of the shots became more creative.
The big time
Such was the case when the General Motors Corporation contacted Dude Perfect about partaking in a campaign to promote the Sierra Denali. Baskets made during that stretch, which spanned spring 2010, included Toney hurling a basketball through the colossal donut structure on top of the Los Angeles-based Randy’s Donuts shop, plus baskets made off a cliff, at a swinging pendulum and even from an airplane.
Yes, an airplane.
“They picked us up from the airport,” Jones said, “they drove us to this field and there was a huge, yellow crop-duster plane sitting out on the field with a GMC truck sitting by it with basketball goal.
“We were speechless.”
Designed to have Toney stationed in the aircraft’s passenger seat, the plan would be to sail over the goal with Toney’s timing needing to be as precise as ever. The first attempt missed the basket by 40 yards and took about 10 minutes for the pilot to angle the plane for a second attempt.
That would be all the time needed for Toney to drill the surreal shot.
“We were electric,” Jones said. “There were 200 different people just jumping and screaming at the monitors; it was miraculous and by the grace of God. We were flying and the goal looks like a dot and then you see the GMC truck and all I could do was visualize this basketball going straight through the windshield of a truck that there were only four of at the time.”
As outlandish a shot as Dude Perfect had made, arguably the group’s most notable experience came six months earlier when its reputation extended to the NBA.
The guys were contacted by the PR wing for Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans, who at the time was making a push for Rookie of the Year. Not too long afterward, the group flew to Sacramento to shoot a series of videos with Evans to help pump his name up.
“It was just one of those things where we got to hang out in the arena and that was probably one of our favorite experiences together,” Jones said. “We’d make one from half-court and then take it higher; we’d try things from the rafters, from the mascot trampoline and even a golf cart. We shot until about 2 a.m. and it was a real fun campaign.”
Six videos were released in April from the sessions with Evans, who went on to be named the league’s Rookie of the Year for 2009-10.
The additional outlets for exposure have been there, with preliminary offers for a TV show on MTV discussed plus a possible trip to Utah to shoot videos with BYU alumnus and current NBA Draft hopeful Jimmer Fredette. Even the entertainment market in Japan has caught on, seeking out Dude Perfect to use footage on several TV programs.
But despite the options available, Jones said the group has yet to pull the trigger.
“It’s got an opportunity to be full-time,” he said, “but it’s a hard sell to our wives to say my full-time job is shooting baskets with my best friends. We have full-time jobs and anything we do for Dude Perfect, we just plan out in advance.”
In Jones’ case, he works in commercial real estate while Toney works in Prosper. The Cotton twins help out their father at church in Austin, while also helping build the Dude Perfect name. Coby helps handle appearances and phone calls while Cory is in the process of writing a book on the group’s journey that is slated for release in September.
Dude Perfect has even taken its show to the smart phone realm with an iPhone app available for 99 cents that gives users the chance to replicate trick shots of their own.
Charity work is also a big player in the guys’ lives away from the camera, with Dude Perfect sponsoring several children overseas and doing a bevy of work with organizations like Compassion International and in Jones’ case, ministry work with Parkway Hills Baptist Church.
And then there’s the influence on their viewers.
“We just continue to feel blessed by this opportunity and we’re blown away by it all,” Jones said. “One of us has checked and at any given minute, there’s 8,000 people watching one of our videos. We get e-mails from parents saying he and his son bought a Nerf hoop and did their own videos, which is really inspiring that we’ve built those kinds of relationships.”
The shots themselves have continued to grow in distance and creativity as well.
The present and the future
Dude Perfect has made baskets from the cross tower of Prestonwood Baptist Church – a structure more than 150 feet tall with the ball sailing for 3.9 seconds – plus Cowboys Stadium (4.7 seconds) and Reliant Stadium (5.3), with the latter registering as the unofficial world record.
“We’ve never found a shot that we haven’t been able to complete,” Jones said. “We have no limit. If you know anybody with a cannon, Tyler would be thrilled to be shot out of a cannon to make a shot. We’ve gotten the OK to shoot from some skyscrapers and we’re just trying to lock down the times.
“You just think of something and go out there and do it.”
A pretty sizeable step up from the 10 feet at ground level during the first shots made from a backyard in College Station.
“Playing for Plano really helped, because initially our relationships were built on playing basketball,” Jones said. “Forming those relationships at Plano, taking those experiences to A&M, getting to meet these people and what has happened since then has just been unbelievable.
“Any adjective that you can think is what I think of the chance to be able to hang out with my friends and make videos, entertain people and just have fun with it.”
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