NBA star LeBron James was supposed to be the one who stole the show when he stepped onto the basketball court at Venice Beach one afternoon earlier this month to play around with warehouse manager David Kalb.
But when they were done playing, it was instead La Habra resident Kalb who took away the glory at the place James calls home.
Kalb, 26, had apparently found the one type of basketball game — HORSE — in which he could come out on top against one of the best players in the world. In HORSE, a player takes a shot and if it is made, the other player must make the same shot or else get one of the five letters of the word. The player who gets all letters first loses.
It wasn’t exactly one-on-one basketball, but Kalb will take the victory over a man who just recently won a gold medal with Team USA at the Beijing Olympics.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Kalb said of playing with Cleveland Cavaliers star James. “To beat LeBron, I can’t describe it. You only get one shot to do it.”
After losing the first game at the Venice Beach court September 3rd, James called for the best two-out-of-three, but Kalb again answered.
“I was pumped,” said Kalb, referring to when James asked for another game. “The more time I could spend on the court with him the better. I would have played the best out of 21.”
Kalb got the opportunity to play the NBA standout by winning the Trick Shot Challenge contest sponsored by Ohio-based Cub Cadet, a manufacturer of outdoor power equipment. Cub Cadet called on players from across the country to submit footage of their best trick shot for a chance to compete one-on-one against James near their hometown.
“Cub Cadet is thrilled to continue our partnership with LeBron James and give fans this amazing opportunity to showcase their talent and creativity and face off against an NBA superstar,” said Cub Cadet senior executive vice president of sales and marketing Jean Hlay, in announcing the contest.
After thousands of videos were submitted, a team of judges picked the top nine shots and consumers then got to pick the top three videos. James himself then reviewed the fancy shots and selected Kalb as the winner. Kalb, who is originally from the state where James now plays, was also the top vote-getter by fans, said Cub Cadet spokeswoman Linda Laszcz.
For his contest-winning trick shot, Kalb was inventive by using his warehouse for props. In his video, the Orange County resident can be seen sinking a shot through a hoop as it is attached to a rotating forklift.
“I wanted to come up with something crazy. Things fell into place and we found something cool,” Kalb said of the forklift shot idea.
Kalb, who said he felt he had a good chance to win the contest after making the shot, added that he was both excited and relieved to know that he had won. In addition to the chance to play James, Kalb also won $5,000 in Cub Cadet lawn equipment.
A lifelong basketball fan who played at the collegiate level, Kalb said he has played the HORSE game for years and used to try to devise creative shots with his friends in college.
“We would always try to come up with the craziest shots possible and we kept doing it,” he said.
Referring to his experience with the game, Kalb expressed confidence in his chances to stump James at HORSE, even though several spectators in Venice Beach were skeptical. Prior to the challenge, Kalb noted to reporters what the significance of a victory over James would mean, saying, “I’d probably put that on a resume if I beat him.”
When the tall, athletic figure finally arrived and the playing began, Kalb didn’t disappoint. He stunned James on a host of shots, such as a shot from behind and over the top of the backboard and an underhanded free throw. For one of his most impressive shots, Kalb threw the ball under his legs, behind his back, caught the ball off the backboard and made the basket.
Laszcz of Cub Cadet said company representatives were equally as impressed with what Kalb pulled off.
“David was a great contestant,” she said. “He surprised us with a lot of his shots and he was very innovative.”
It was all too much horseplay for James, who jokingly threw the ball away after the defeat and shook Kalb’s hand.
“Seeing what David was able to come up with, I don’t know how he did it or where his mind was when he came up with some of those trick shots, but he definitely showcased his talents today,” James told reporters. “Some of those things I’m going to take back home and use against my teammates.”
Having dethroned “King James,” Kalb says he isn’t sure what he can do to top the victory, but he welcomes a rematch or another challenger.
“When you start out with LeBron that’s arguably as high as you get,” he said. “It’s a cool story and it always will be. I’ll be glad to share it.”