Joseph Odhiambo has been doing ball handling tricks for about seven years. And he works pretty hard at it. Recently, his efforts paid off when he was notified by Guinness World Records, which used to be known as the Guinness Book of World Records, that one of his efforts has been recognized by them. He is now officially noted as the world record holder for dribbling six basketballs simultaneously.
Joseph has lived in the Phoenix area for more than ten years. He is originally from Nairobi, Kenya. Because he is such an interesting individual, I requested an interview, and Joseph gladly obliged. Here is the result of that interview:
How long have you been doing this and what made you get started?
"I was speaking at a local school in Phoenix and later after the assembly, a student mentioned that his father knew someone who could dribble four basketballs. On my way home, I stopped by the library to check the Guinness Book of Records. Sure enough, there were three people who had demonstrated the ability to dribble four basketballs simultaneously for one minute. I decided that I was going to make a run at the record.
I have been doing ball-handling tricks for six years now. When my father passed away in 1994 from throat cancer, he left a big void in my heart. I took time off from work to try and deal with his death, however, nothing seemed to give me peace.
While working at a basketball camp in Prescott, I saw a tape of the world's best female ball-handler, Tanya Crevier. I was so inspired by her presentation, I promised to be able to do all her tricks the following summer. When I got home that evening, I officially started my ball-handing practice."
Tell us a little about how you practice and how often.
"I wrote down what I wanted to practice and set out the next day early in the morning.
For the next five to six months, I practiced an average of six hours each day. I started in the morning at 9 a.m. to noon. I came home, had lunch, then viewed the tape of the morning practice. I went back from 2 to 5 p.m. for the afternoon practice. After a short rest, I went back to the evening practice from 7 to 9 p.m. In the morning, I practice dribbling, afternoon juggling, and evening spinning. Starting with one basketball, I work my way to four basketballs in dribbling and juggling, and 10 basketballs in spinning. Since then, I have pushed the dribbling to six basketballs, juggling to five and spinning to 24 basketballs."
Do you have other unique talents?
"I don't think I have any unique talent other than being persistent. I can play the accordion, flute, and I was a good discus and shot putter in high school. In fact, I still hold the Kenya Secondary Schools and College records in both events. If it was not for basketball, I could have gone to the 1988 Olympics as a discus thrower. I don't call any of these special talents because when I started, I was just an average athlete. However, my faith, persistence, patience, and hard work put me over the top."
Are you able to share your talents in some ways with others?
"Yes, many school children have seen my ball-handling demonstrations through my two assembly programs.
In the R.E.A.C.H for the Stars program I focus my talks on Respect, Education, positive Attitude, Commitment, and Hard work. These are the attributes that one needs to reach their star. The star can be any goal that one sets his or her mind to. In the KnowTobacco program I also present assemblies using a ball-handling demonstration as a background for discussing the dangers of tobacco."
Tell us a little about your background, family, and job.
"I have been in Arizona for almost 10 years. I went to Grand Canyon University where I also played basketball. I graduated with degrees in computer science and mathematics. I stopped writing computer programs in 1994, however, I still use my mathematics in class, as I am a substitute teacher with the Alhambra School District. I am the third born (four brothers and one sister).
My family is all back in Kenya. When I played basketball, I was a forward and I did not use my dribbling skills that much in the game. I wish I had the skills then that I have now. We might be talking NBA! Anyway, I have found a better use of the skills, and if I can steer a child away from tobacco with my skills, I think I have done a good job."
Can the public ever see you perform your talents?
"I offer special individual clinics on how to become a better athlete through practice. In the summer, I make guest appearances at various camps across the nation and share my famous ball-handling with the kids."
Any final thoughts or comments?
"A lot of people think that one must have special talent to excel in whatever they choose to do. Special talent can only take someone so far. Beyond that one must develop skills to complement or supplement the talent to be successful. Also, it takes more than just regular practice to become good. A person without a story about where they have come from and where they are heading are wandering in a circle without an end."
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Joseph tells me that he is also being considered by Guinness World Records for another acknowledgment for his other record of juggling three basketballs while making 37 lay ups in one minute. They have also requested that he make various appearances for them, including one in Spain, and he has received invitations from Sweden and Italy as well. It sounds like Joseph will be a busy man. I can tell you he is excited about the prospect of showcasing his talents and sharing his message of the danger of smoking and the importance of hard work to children everywhere. We wish him continued success!