Legendary Shots

Shots Seen ‘Round the World…

Hoover’s Legendary Shots basketball guys and YouTube sensations continue to up the ante with harder, more difficult shots at bigger and better places.

by Dana Jaffe, Photography by Beau Gustafson

What started in 2005 as an innovative way to cure after–school boredom has since made The Legendary Shots, a six–member basketball trick team from Hoover, worldwide YouTube sensations and the focus of a local ad campaign that has opened the doors for them to shoot almost anywhere in the city.
When Carson Stalnaker, a senior at Hoover High School, was 13-years-old, he and some friends decided to ditch their normal pick-up games and start attempting all sorts of long distance 3-pointers. They started filming their afternoon shooting sessions with a wild fantasy of one day putting out a DVD of their amazing trick shots that would make them famous. But it was their decision to start posting videos on YouTube that would actually lead to fame.
A YouTube account was created in 2007, and in late 2008, Draftfcb, one of the largest global ad agencies, contacted them about using their footage in an international Hampton Inn campaign. “We had hardly gotten any YouTube messages at the time and thought their message was spam; we couldn’t imagine how they had found our little YouTube channel, and if they hadn’t, everything since probably wouldn’t have happened at all,” said team member Bryan Anderson. The Legendary Shots have made several thousand dollars with this venture through the licensing of the footage used in commercials and with revenue sharing on YouTube.
The boys wanted to keep up their momentum and started to think big about what was next. They continued to post fresh, original shots from their driveways and gyms, but had a growing urge to get beyond those limitations. Being the boys from the Hampton Inn commercials helped them overcome hurdles and start doing some of the spectacular shots around the city that they had been dreaming up.
In February 2010, Jill Stalnaker, Carson’s mother and team manager, was invited to speak at The Birmingham Tip-Off Club, where she shared The Legendary Shots videos with more than 200 basketball fanatics. Afterward, people were handing her business cards and giving her contact information to get the boys into venues like Regions Park Stadium, Samford’s Pete Hanna Center and UAB’s Bartow Arena to shoot.From here on out, each shot they made seemed to unlock an opportunity to shoot at another venue. The Legendary Shots continued to up the ante with harder, more difficult shots at bigger and better places.
“We’d originally upload all of our shots and title the best ones ‘Legendary Shots,’ so when we would make a really good shot, we’d say ‘Is that one worth being called legendary?’ Then we thought why upload shots that aren’t legendary, so now every shot we post is a legendary shot,” Stalnaker said.The group went viral in August when they posted “The World’s Farthest Basketball Shot,” a shot made from 140–feet in the air from atop the observation deck of Vulcan. This video made it to the Yahoo.com homepage and got 3.5 million views over the course of a week.
“That was pretty much the shot seen around the world, the shot that put them on the map and truly went viral. The YouTube world is a whole new way of being famous and popular; it is a way for average people to do something above average and get noticed,” Jill said.
The snowball effect continued. Next, Alabama Adventure let these kids in to shoot at one of their dream locations—a theme park. Footage from the Stratosfear Screamer shot, which was made when the free fall ride stops for a second at 120–feet in the air, was used in a national Flip video camera commercial.
And so the buzz about The Legendary Shots continued to generate around the city. Today they are working with Big Communications and the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau on “The Legendary Shots and Hot Spots in Birmingham” campaign to promote various sites and attractions around the city.
Stalnaker said Big put their imaginations to work when they said “just tell us where you want to go and we will make it happen.” The boys have already done a shot from a hot air balloon at Railroad Park and hope to add shots from  McWane Science Center, Rickwood Field, Barber Motorsports Park and Sloss Furnaces to their list in 2011.
“We used to think if we could shoot at such and such place, it would be the ultimate thing, so it’s cool knowing we can go pretty much anywhere we want to go now. We are always thinking of locations around the city where we can go take advantage of this opportunity,” Stalnaker said. Jill adds, “It says a lot about the city we live in that they have accepted us with open arms and want to support good kids in the community in achieving their dreams. The opportunities they have are incredible; I’m always looking at them thinking ‘Do you have any idea how cool this is?’”
Though all their big shots are local, these Southern boys are seen nationwide. In a YouTube circle of hundreds of basketball trick shooters, they are in the top tier. Currently, The Legendary Shots channel has 20,000-plus subscribers, 66 videos, and a total of 12.8 million views.
Stalnaker, Anderson, and the other four other team members, John Massey, William Snoddy, Jeffery Higginbotham and Chase Martin make sure everyone gets a chance to be seen in the shooting spotlight by taking turns with other duties like ball return, filming and editing.What YouTube viewers see are their hits, not their misses. Massey, a senior at Pelham High School, describes the long shot as something that is mastered with a mixture of skill, luck, practice, and determination to keep going and not give up until the ball hits the net.
“We get all of these comments about how we should be in the NBA, unfortunately in the NBA you have to make the shot the first time and actually be good at the game,” jokes Anderson. “Sometimes it takes us forever. Just when you’re thinking it isn’t worth it though, it goes in and the fact that so much work went into it makes it that much more special.”
Jill said she remembers when her son first showed her the shots they were filming and laughing when he told her he wanted her to get in touch with David Letterman. She said it was only a couple of months later the message about the Hampton Inn commercials came in and she started to realize the kids really did have something special.
Though they haven’t made it on Letterman yet, they’ve been featured on media outlets from ESPN’s SportCenter and Last Call with Carson Daly to SportsIllustrated.com, and even television shows in Japan, Portugal, South Korea and Brazil. As their fascinating journey continues,          The Legendary Shots most-wanted list includes the Georgia Dome, the Hoover Damn, Jordan–Hare Stadium, a roller coaster  at Six Flags Over Georgia and NBA stadiums.
“The experience and fun these kids are having with this is invaluable,” said Jill. “They will think back on their childhood and this adventure will definitely be a high point, and a story they will tell forever.” said.

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