You may have never heard of Justin Darlington, or “Jus Fly,” as he’s known in basketball circles, but after you watch him dunk you’ll never forget the name. At this year’s Nike World Basketball Festival in Washington D.C., Darlington pulled out his now famous cartwheel-to-between-the-legs-to-windmill dunk to win the first leg of the Nike+ Basketball Dunk Showcase, blowing the crowd’s collective mind in the process. Men’s Fitness spoke with Darlington after the contest to find out how he comes up with his dunks and what he has in mind to top this weekend’s performance.
Where do you find inspiration for your dunks?
Justin Darlington: It’s easier said than done. Ideas come and go, so you might just be sitting down playing a video game and an idea will come, or you might be in the gym messing around for a few hours and then an idea will come, so it’s really hard to say where the inspiration comes from. Most of it is getting inspiration from others and then adding your own flair and style to it.
How did you find the cartwheel dunk?
I’ve been fascinated by dunking since a very young age, so I’m always looking around and there are some guys who have been doing some amazing stuff for years. They just didn’t get that recognition. Abdoul Bamba is the guy who invented the original cartwheel dunk and I just added my own twist to it.
|Judges (left to right) Diana Taurasi, LeBron James and Anthony Davis|
What about your other dunks that we saw here today?
Well, the underneath-both-legs, for example, I invented. I was just messing around with a friend. I jumped in the air and put the ball under my legs and he goes, “Think you can dunk it?” and I was like, “I don’t know, why not, let’s go for it,” and it went down on the third attempt.
How did you train initially to get your vertical so high?
It’s genetics. My dad could dunk. He used to tell me stories about how he used to dunk a lot, and I met a couple of the guys who he played with and they told me that he wasn’t lying [Laughs]. He was about 5’10”. My little brother got the genes, too, so my little brother can dunk as well. My older brother didn’t get them so he can’t dunk at all. I really feel like genetics play a big role in it.
What is your training regimen like as far as maintaining your vertical goes?
I wouldn’t say I have a big training regimen. A lot of these other guys train a hundred times more than me. Sometimes I don’t get to touch a gym for two or three weeks. But when I get in there I try to play ball mostly. I just play around, and then whenever there’s a break I’ll throw in a couple dunks.
So your training consists entirely of playing basketball and practicing your dunks. You’re not going into the weight room to work on your legs or anything like that?
No weight training. None of that. My plyometrics, basically, is dunking. I feel that that’s the best way you can learn, because if you’re doing leg presses and all that stuff I guess you’re making your legs stronger, but when you dunk you’re only using the muscles that you need to dunk. So if I do that for hours, until my legs give out and I can’t jump or walk anymore, I feel like I’ve done the most that I can.
Your cartwheel dunk is already a YouTube sensation. How do you plan on topping that?
I have a different variation of the cartwheel, which is my own invention and involves taking the ball underneath both legs, but it’s not consistent enough to pull out in contests yet, so hopefully I’ll get that one a little more consistent and then add to it.
If you could get as much air as you wanted and could pull off any dunk, what would you go for?
Well, I don’t know that it’s not possible, because some people have gotten close, but a double-under-the-legs-360. A couple of my friends have messed around with it and we’ve actually gotten pretty close. The way you see us miss, it seems possible now. Before, we never thought it was possible. I mean, it’s freakish. But then we started to actually attempt it and we’re realizing now that it’s possible. You just need everything to be perfect. You’ve got to get your speed right plus the hang time, otherwise it’s just not going down.