Me vs. DeShawn Stevenson (NBA Champion)

by Kenny Eller on January 19, 2014

Me with NBA Champion DeShawn Stevenson

Me with NBA Champion DeShawn Stevenson

Since the day I began really playing basketball, some 23 years ago, I’ve dreamed of walking onto a basketball court, lacing up my Jordans and matching up against one of the World’s best – an NBA Player.

On Friday, January 17th, that lifelong Dream came true when I went head-to-head with NBA Champion, DeShawn Stevenson!

DeShawn Stevenson – The Player

DeShawn Champion

At 19 years of age, DeShawn Stevenson was the 23rd selection in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz – right out of high school.  Known as a prolific scorer (30.4 ppg) with off the charts athleticism out of Washington Union high school, DeShawn became the youngest player to ever start for Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz.

Throughout his 13 year NBA career, DeShawn has played for the Utah Jazz, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks (Won NBA Championship), New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn Nets), and the Atlanta Hawks where he spent last season.

Released by the Hawks in August, DeShawn is now staying in shape and training with Orlando Hoops, while he looks to land a spot on a championship contender’s roster sometime this season.

DeShawn Stevenson – The Person

Before I get into the dream.  Before I tell you about the games versus DeShawn, I’ve got to tell you about the man I met Friday afternoon.

I don’t type the next few words lightly – I pound the keys to share that DeShawn Stevenson is one of the NICEST PEOPLE I’VE EVER MET.

That isn’t me being kind or being thankful, which I am, for the experience.  It’s me sharing the biggest takeaway, personally, of the entire event.

I was blown away.

I asked DeShawn, after our games, if he gets approached a lot by people to play basketball.

I asked because for the 3 years and 5 months I’ve been on this journey to play Michael Jordan, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get someone in the NBA to play me.

I’ve asked over 20 NBA guys to play – in person (some on an actual basketball court) – and they’ve all declined.

I had wondered if being asked to play when you’re one of the best, was a constant.

His answer spoke volumes.

He stated that while he does get asked for pictures often at places like the airport…he doesn’t really get approached to play.  His thoughts as to why that is the case, most likely the perception that is out there about him.

When Perception – Is Not – Reality

DeShawn Face

DeShawn Stevenson is every bit of 6’5″.  He’s intimidating on the court with a strong and athletic build.  He’s got more ink than a printer cartridge, making up numerous tattoos that cover his body.

He’s got a lot of heart too.

His most recent tattoo, a picture of one of his closest childhood friends who recently and tragically passed away.

To watch him on an NBA court, he’s a ferocious, in your face, defender.  He fears no one.  Confidence spilling out of every pore.

Off the court – at least in my interactions with him on Friday, I saw a different guy.

  • He’s the kind of guy that shows up a few minutes late and apologizes.
  • He’s the kind of guy who, after finding out that the first few minutes of our game wasn’t recorded, says “Don’t worry, we can play a best of 5 games series so that you have plenty of video!”
  • He’s the kind of guy who says, “best of 5 game series” when he knows he can beat me easily every single time.
  • He’s the kind of guy that insists that I get the ball first and AFTER I make my first shot, asks where my feet were and then explains that for me the college line (which my feet were behind) will count for 2 points, but for him the NBA line will count for 2.  When I plead that I too will only count behind the NBA line as 2 pointers, DeShawn insists that I keep the 2 points (up 2-0) and continue to use the shorter distance to my advantage.
  • He’s the kind of guy that willingly puts on one of my shirts and takes picture after picture to make sure it’s just right.
  • He’s the kind of guy that drives over 40 minutes – one way – just to play me.  Just to HELP.

I reached out to a friend of mine in the NBA, that I’ve met through this journey, who didn’t know I was going to play or meet DeShawn, but that I later found out has known DeShawn since high school.

I shared the impact of DeShawn Stevenson’s kindness on me.

I asked, is that the guy you know as well?

He responded, “D Steve is incredible.  Best teammate anyone could have.”

Me vs. DeShawn Stevenson

– Before the Game –

I arrived at Orlando Hoops just after 11am on Friday.  There was an abnormal chill in Central Florida air.

Truthfully, I was nervous.

I warmed up with my brother, wanting to be as loose as possible, while at the same time trying to conserve every bit of energy for what was about to take place.

I didn’t know what to expect.

DeShawn and Kobe

Would this NBA Defensive stopper jump on me and make quick work of my efforts?

Would he come to send a message?

I had no clue what his outlook would be on the game – or on my journey.

During the prior couple of days, after finding out that “G” (Coach Gerrod Trytten of Orlando Hoops) had reached out to DeShawn to set up the game – my mind flashed with random moments of DeShawn’s playing career.

A personal picture DeShawn sent me of MJ guarding him.

A personal picture DeShawn sent me of MJ guarding him.

From his days as a McDonald’s All-American all the way throughout his playing time in the NBA, I knew a lot about DeShawn Stevenson.  I had seen him posterize some of the best.  I had watched him lock up offensive scoring machines.  I had seen him gladly take on the challenge of LeBron, Wade, Kobe, and yes, even Michael Jordan.

When I told my brother that I was going to play DeShawn Stevenson, with an oh my goodness tone, he said, “Wow!  That’s HUGE!  Your dream is coming true man!”

We’re a basketball family, so I went into these games with much respect.

My brother left work, just to come record and watch.  He was living the dream as well!

– My Mindset Going Into the Game –

To some reading this, the next few words may sound really weak, but I honestly just wanted to score at least once.

I’ve been exposed to enough REAL basketball on this journey to know that I stand no chance against anyone in the NBA, much less someone with defensive prowess like Stevenson.

I play, with all I have, because I love this game.  Because an experience like this, as I’ve already said, is a childhood dream come true for me.  I play to hopefully inspire you, whether you play basketball or not, in your own life.  I play, to show you that anything is possible with faith and hard work!  I play, to give you a real life, go out and grab it example that dreams DO come true!

And even though I know deep down I have no shot of winning, once the ball is checked in, I play to win.

– The Game Begins – The First Shot –

DeShawn hands me the ball, crouches down on defense and the game begins!

After a couple of jab steps, I know with the space he’s giving me that I have a chance to get my shot off.

This is ideal, because shooting is what I do!

So as quickly as I can, I rise up – hopeful – from 21 feet at the top of the arc and let the dream flyyyyyyy.


At that moment, every imaginary game, every make believe buzzer beater against an NBA player when I was a kid, came true!

Sure the game was just 2-0, but to me, everything I had dreamed of as a young man, desperately learning this game of basketball, came to fruition!

DeShawn Stevenson made it come true.

– The Results –

In the end, DeShawn and I played three games of 1-on-1 Friday.

Yes, the five game series he was so kind enough to do, was a sweep, haha!

The scores of each game:

Game 1:  15-8 (The first two of my points – not captured on video)

Game 2:  15-3

Game 3:  15-4

– The Truth – He Took It Really Easy On Me –

As you will see in the video below, DeShawn’s kindness was also shown in his effort against me.

He knew he could blast me 15-0 if he wanted to.

And while I had told him before the games began, “If you can keep me from getting a shot off, I want you to do that.  Don’t take it easy on me.” – what I witnessed was that his goal wasn’t to prove how much better he was than me.  His career shows that.

Instead, I think he knew he was fulfilling a dream for a guy with BIG dreams.

He knew he would win, but I believe he wanted me to feel accomplished as well.

– Intimidated – Beat At My Own Game – But I Got Better! –

DeShawn’s size bothered me.

It made me rush shot attempts from a little further out than I probably would have liked.

Because he was cruising – I was given numerous chances to score.  But adrenaline mixed with fatigue got the better of me.

In the end, he beat me at my own game – shooting.

He rained in NBA three after NBA three.

Finally in game three, I tried to apply more ball pressure, but to no avail.

By the time I realized he wasn’t going to take me to the basket and make a poster out of me, the games were over.

I got better though because he showed me that I really need to work on shooting quicker, from deeper, and also work on getting to the basket and finishing strong against much larger defenders.

He also explained after the games, every single tendency of my game.  He knew when I was going to shoot and when I was going to drive.  He broke me down to myself in detail (I won’t share because players will use it against me) which left me amazed.  He had me figured out in a handful of minutes.

That’s one glaring difference maker in the approach of an NBA player.

It’s never been more evident that I need to work diligently on mixing up my game.

Even in defeat though, I learned a lot and thus – I got better!

So without further ado…here is Me vs. DeShawn Stevenson!

Me vs. DeShawn Stevenson (Video)

 (link to video)

 Anything Is Possible with Faith & Hard Work!

If you’ve been following my journey for awhile, you know about the struggle.  You know how many rejections came before this amazing YES.

I’ve been telling you that Anything Is Possible with Faith & Hard Work for a couple of years now and THIS IS A HUGE EXAMPLE of that.

Life can be hard at times – no doubt.  There are going to be ups and downs and sometimes it seems as though there are just downs and more downs.  But you’ve got to keep believing!  You’ve got to keep pushing!

I believe we were all created to do amazing things!

My goal on this journey and through this experience with DeShawn is to motivate you to move in a positive direction.

To look at me and say IF HE CAN DO THAT, SO CAN I! isn’t about basketball.  It’s about life.

1 game – me vs. Michael Jordan – the amazing journey continues!!!


THANK YOU DeShawn Stevenson!  Thank you for taking the time to make a dream come true.  Thank you for being an example for so many others.  Thank you for inspiring me and those that follow this journey.  You’ve made a HUGE difference and for that I am forever grateful.


Special Thanks to Orlando Hoops!

I have to give a special shout out to Gerrod Trytten and the entire Orlando Hoops family for constantly and consistently BELIEVING in me and my journey!  Without their willingness to HELP none of this would have been possible.


If you’re new here, I set out in August 2010 to get a game of 1-on-1 vs. my childhood hero Michael Jordan.  This site is about that journey…through every valley, to every mountain top of triumph!

Anything Is Possible with Faith & Hard Work!


Connect:  Twitter (@KennyEller) and Facebook Page.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Romeu January 19, 2014 at 9:30 pm

To me Deshawn Stevenson is THE BEST BASKETBALL PLAYER and the BEST example for the new generation who want to be a Champion like he is.


Kenny Eller Kenny Eller January 21, 2014 at 2:20 pm

He is without a doubt, a great guy!


Barbara Romeu January 19, 2014 at 9:35 pm



Jerome January 21, 2014 at 8:02 am

Awesome man, just awesome! I’m really glad to see this happen for you! Great write-up too, I could really feel your emotion through your words. Mad props to DeShawn Stevenson as well, sounds like he is an amazing guy.

If I can ask, how did you feel playing against him compared to playing some of the other people you’ve played against? You’ve played against/with some top college guys and a few pros, how did it compare?


Kenny Eller Kenny Eller January 21, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Thank you so much Jerome! I appreciate that! And yes, DeShawn was awesome!

The comparison is really impossible to do because each player put forth different levels of effort. For example, the very first person I played, Robert Brown, in his video he just cruised, played around and did enough to win. We’ve played since then and I’ve asked him to go all out and it is scary – almost impossible to even get open.

Obviously, DeShawn is my first NBA guy and someone who I knew a lot about from watching over the years. I’ve seen him D up Kobe, etc. so there is no doubt in my mind that he could have held me scoreless if that was his goal.

I was amazed at his basketball IQ. Literally in a few minutes of playing, as I stated in the post, he could tell me all about me when it came to my game. He was spot on too. He was able to pick up on little tendencies that I do before I – well I better not say, MJ may be reading haha! Seriously though, it was cool to see that even while playing around he is a student of the game.

It was an amazing experience!


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