James Johnson's tactic when a ball is stuck between the backboard and the rim
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James Johnson’s tactic when a ball is stuck between the backboard and the rim

james johnson

A journeyman player throughout his career, James Johnson has seemed to found a home with the Miami Heat this season. Johnson is averaging career-highs in points (12.3), rebounds (4.8), assists (3.5), which all could be attributed to his increase in playing time (a career-high 26.6 minutes per game). But Johnson’s stellar play is probably also a direct result of his dramatic weight loss as the Heat forward has lost 37 pounds since arriving in Miami.

The Heat’s training staff and Johnson’s work ethic have helped him lose all of that weight. And now more agile than ever, the slimmed down Johnson is a key member of the Heat and is helping Miami try to make the playoffs in the East.

Also now that Johnson has lost 30-plus pounds, he can more easily roundhouse kick a ball that is wedged between the backboard and the rim.

From Johnson’s Q&A with Anthony Chiang of PalmBeachPost.com

Q: Can you really roundhouse kick a ball that’s stuck between the backboard and the rim?

James: “That’s a fact.”

Q: When was the last time you did it?

James: “The summer before last season.”

Q: So the last time you did it, you were with Toronto?

James: “And I was heavier. I still have everything I can do. It’s not like I lost anything. If anything, I’ve gained [more ability]. I lost weight. I’m stronger, more flexible. I might be able to get it easier now.”

Q: How old were you when you realized you could do this?

James: “Probably like 15, 16. That’s when I first knew I could do it. Then it was just something I could always do.”

And while the image of Johnson jumping up and kicking a ball that is stuck between the rim and backboard seems ludicrous, he isn’t lying.

From a 2011 Toronto Star article:

Warming up for Thursday’s workout, the Raptors were faced with a common practice-court predicament. There were three balls lodged in one basket, suspended in the mesh like so many fish in a net.

It was no big problem, really. Tall men were in abundance. One flick of a wingspan could have alleviated the logjam. But Ed Davis and Jerry Bayless had a different idea. They challenged teammate James Johnson to dislodge the balls with an improbable implement — specifically, his foot. And soon enough Johnson, who is both 6-foot-9 and a black belt in kenpo karate, was wowing the squad with an airborne freak show.

“He looked like a ninja warrior,” marvelled Francesco Cuzzolin, the club’s strength and conditioning coach. “He was jumping in the air, spinning 360 and kicking the balls in the net. His head was over the rim, his legs were splitting, and he’s kicking the balls. It was something I’ve never seen in my life.”

Said Jay Triano, the Raptors coach: “He had to do it, like, five times because nobody could believe it.”


As the article notes, Johnson has a second-degree black belt and according to a 2014 Grantland story, the Heat forward has even fought in mixed martial arts matches and kickboxing contests. Johnson has a 7-0 record in MMA matches and is 20-0 in kickboxing, so his karate skills are clearly quite legitimate and there should be no doubt that he can kick a ball that is stuck between the rim and backboard.

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