White Blokes Can Jump

Oh, snap: British playground baller dekes NBA dude
December 08, 2008

EVEN THOUGH he isan expert in caroms and sudden changes in direction, Stuart Tanner couldn'thave anticipated how quickly his life would lurch when he faked right, wentleft and totally deked Nets guard Devin Harris one blustery autumn afternoon inLondon. Tanner's streetball sorcery, which included a sadistic crossoverdribble through Harris's legs and a deadeye fadeaway jumper, occurred during anNBA outreach event that coincided with the Nets-Heat preseason game on Oct. 12in the U.K.

Tanner's olderbrother, Greg, a basketball blogger, captured Stuart's moves on video. Ifyou've already seen the clip on YouTube, you're in good worldwide company: Ithas had more than four million views. Tanner was the subject of a recentsegment on ABC's World News Tonight, and Jay Leno's reps have called. "Forsomeone like me, a skinny white kid from London, that's pretty incredible,"says the 6'1" Tanner, 28. "I've become a one-move wonder."

Perhaps becausedribbling artists rely on feints and misdirection, some have wondered whetherTanner's exploits were simply a clever viral marketing ploy. (Adidas sponsoredthe event.) It was all so seemingly well-choreographed. Tanner—almosttranslucently white and wearing a V-neck sweater, jeans and an untuckedT-shirt—challenged the 6'3" Harris, then hustled him, Billy Hoyle--style.There was also the remarkably gracious reaction of Harris, who is blossominginto a star in New Jersey (page 142): "You see how fast he was? He trickedme, he hustled me in my own court! We might need to sign him up!"

In truth there wasno sleight of hand, Tanner's notwithstanding. Besides, to question theauthenticity is to miss the point. This episode says as much about basketball'srelentless globalization as the influx of foreign NBA stars does. It's onething when an uncommonly tall German (Dirk Nowitzki), Argentine (Manu Ginobili)or Asian (Yao Ming) is able to play at the highest level. But you know yoursport has truly penetrated a culture when it's given rise to a population oftribalists—"Basketball Bennies," in the vernacular—who are students ofthe game's jazzy derivations rather than its gym-rat roots.

Tanner and hisbrother discovered basketball in the early '90s, when British television beganairing episodes of NBA Jam Session. "It was the only basketball we wereexposed to," says Greg Tanner. "Then White Men Can't Jump came out andwe thought, Eeeow, this sport is cool. Our council [local government] built twooutdoor courts near our house, and so we just started imitating what wesaw."

Predictably,Stuart's early ambitions to play professional hoops in Britain—where "Youflash bastard" is among the most damning insults one can dispense on thesoccer pitch or cricket field—were scotched by coaches who accused him of"over-dribbling." He did, however, become a minor urban legend throughthree-on-three tournaments, his moves documented by his brother on a nowdefunct website, streetball.co.uk. Like most artists, Tanner, an aspiringphysical trainer from London, has made almost no money from his talent. He'snever hustled for cash, he says, and though he was contacted by Adidas aboutsponsorship after the Harris clip went global, nothing came of it.

If his legerdemainagainst Harris was testament to the burgeoning international growth ofbasketball, it also ought to comfort hoops purists who bleat that whileAmerican players are showboating and freelancing, their overseas counterpartsare perfecting crisp bounce passes and exquisitely calibrated bank shots. GregTanner laughs at this notion, pointing to Bulls forward Luol Deng, currentlythe only notable Brit in the NBA. "Deng is pure fundamentals," saysGreg. "But on the street I could name you 15 guys that could do to DevinHarris what my brother did."

Go Figure

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PHOTOCOURTESY BASKETBALL247.CO.UK (TANNER)SCHOOL, BRITANNIA Tanner taught Harris (below) a one-on-one lesson. PHOTODAVID DOW/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (HARRIS)[See caption above]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)