It took him a year longer than he would have liked, but expert basketball impersonator Brandon Armstrong is finally packing his bags for the Celebrity Game at All-Star Weekend this year. After his fans pushed him to vie for a spot in the game, he went through a couple of training sessions—making some more hilarious videos in the meantime—and eventually earned himself a spot across the floor from the likes of Nick Cannon, Mark Cuban and his good friend Baron Davis.
The Crossover caught up with Armstrong days before the game to discuss his friendship with Davis, his journey to All-Star Weekend, and impersonations we might see in the future.
Kenny Ducey: You’ve got to be so excited to be in this game, right? When did you find out you were going to be playing?
Brandon Armstrong: I probably found out about a month ago. We did these NBA workshop training events for celebrities getting ready to possibly be in the game. So it was kind of like a tryout in Miami. At the end of the session they told me, they made the announcement that I was in the game. And they got me a big package, like a replica Golden State Warriors jacket… that’s how it all started, it’s pretty exciting. I’m at a loss for words.
KD: That’s amazing man, so they had an actual, like, tryout? What was that like?
BA: It was, kind of. We had two—we had one in L.A., one in Miami. It was basically, all the celebrities that wanted to be in the game, we came and basically trained. You know how boxers trained? We actually trained, did a lot of drills. And at the end we had a pick-up session. There were a couple celebrities, Master P and Romeo, they were there. A couple of Instagram influencers, comedians, actors. It was really cool.
KD: Obviously, you really wanted to be in the game then, when did you decide this was a goal of yours?
BA: Probably last year, when a lot of my followers and supporters, they started a petition for me to be in the game—the 2016 celebrity game. And I was like, 'Oh, yeah, if I have a chance to get in this I definitely, definitely want to be in it.' I wasn’t able to get in it last year, but this year, I did. It’s like a dream come true, the last two years, I’m definitely looking forward to it.
KD: Speaking of dreams coming true, you’ve met other players. You did a Dwyane Wade impersonation in front of Dwyane Wade. Which other players have you met, and which ones are you looking forward to meeting at All-Star Weekend?
BA: Ah, man. I met JaVale McGee, James Harden, [Russell] Westbrook, Steph [Curry], I met a lot and it’s been a crazy run the last year and a half. I’m looking forward to meeting Jason Williams, like I said I’ve met a lot of the big guys already… I don’t know, I’m looking forward to meeting them all. If I’m able to meet like a legend, like Magic Johnson or somebody, that’d definitely be really dope.
KD: What is going on with your overseas career? When you blew up, that was something everyone saw in your bio. Where did you start and when, and where are you at now?
BA: I played college basketball at Lincoln Memorial University, then I went from there to the NBA D-League with the Reno Bighorns, then went and played over in Australia and Spain. As of now, ever since I dropped that [Russell] Westbrook video, probably last June, I haven’t played a professional basketball game since then. We’re looking forward to a couple of one week tours in China, but other than that if it’s not the NBA I’m not playing basketball again professionally.
KD: So you’d say that was your best video then, the Westbrook one?
BA: Yeah, yeah. That was the one that set it off. That was the one that blew up. Because I did the James [Harden], and then LeBron James was probably my most viewed one, but I’m really known for the Westbrook and James Harden ones.
KD: So are you going to break any of them out during the game, or break out any new ones that we haven’t seen yet?
BA: Yeah, yeah, I’ll definitely give the crowd some entertainment and I’ll definitely break out the James [Harden] and Westbrook, and maybe a couple other players. I have to, it’s only right.
KD: Absolutely, I’m excited to see them. So obviously you’re playing with a lot of guys… but which player on the other team would you want to cross up the most?
BA: Probably Baron [Davis], just because he’s a really good friend of mine. And we’ve been talking about getting a chance to play together but our schedules never match up. We’ve got a show that we’re about to come out with probably in the next month or so that we’re filming, so it would be fun to be able to talk some smack to him, and after the fact tell him I got a bucket on him in the game.
KD: When did you guys first become friends? How’d you guys meet?
BA: Well Baron, he followed me a while back, probably when I started the impersonations. Then he had reach out to me via social media, and we sat down and talked to this production company, we drew up a show and we pitched it to some networks and one finally picked it up. So that’s how we met, via social media.
KD: How long do these videos actually take you to make? How long does the entire production take, how long do you practice, the whole scope of a video?
BA: It never takes no more than 10–12 minutes. I’ve played basketball so I have a pretty good general aspect of what player I am doing, and it’ll probably take maybe two or three takes to get a certain move or have some options. But it never takes no more than 10–12 minutes. I might look at a couple highlights, but I have a good idea about what a player does and what I want to put a funny twist to.
KD: Are you cooking up any right now?
BA: Yeah, I’m gonna drop one or two before the celebrity game. I’m working on a non-NBA player that everyone’s wanted me to do, they want me to do LaMelo Ball. That’ll be a funny one and I think he’ll like it.
KD: You’ve got to work on your really quick release and just like stand under the basket the whole time.
BA: Exactly, exaaaactly. So I’m gonna try to make it funny without trying to make fun of him, because he’s in high school. It different, you know. I think he’ll like it.