It was 2003, in Slobozhanske, a small town in Ukraine, when Dmitry, a 13-year-old boy, first saw the famous Nike ad, “Freestyle”. “Wow, I must do this as well!”, he said back then. Five years later, in 2008, Smoove crossed the border with Romania to take part, as a freestyler, in what was to be his first international competition, Sport Arena Streetball. At the beginning of the same year, the Harlem Globetrotters made their debut in the United States. We’ve learnt the story of Dmitry Krivenko on Sport Arena Streetball LIVE, on Instagram, and we’ll write it here for you, in his words.
The first time I saw the Nike ad, I couldn’t even imagine so many things could be done with just a basketball ball. It was something fabulous to me and I told myself I must really do this as well, and become a freestyler. I made my first dunk when I was around 14, I think I was 1.80 m tall by then, but when I first travelled to Bucharest, I had no clue I was going to be a dunker. I knew freestyle, and I wanted to be a pro streetball player. Events such as And1 or Ball Up were well known at the time, and I wanted to make it there.
My first great event as a dunker was Moscow, 2011. Later on, I took part in London Midnight Madness, where I met Simon, my current manager and friend, and that’s when I began travelling all around the globe. Simon had then created Dunk Elite, gathering and putting together other valuable dunkers, and our trip turned into a dream come true.
Wade was wrong, but Gordon did not deserve to win
Aaron Gordon hadn’t prepared more dunks, or he was just not expecting to make it that far into the competition. I thought Derrick Jones was better prepared, and had something in his sleeve for the final round as well. Personally, I didn’t like Gordon’s dunk over Tacko Fall – Gordon took flight there, and by the NBA rules – having jumped over such a tall player – he would have indeed deserved a 10. I, for one, wouldn’t have awarded him a 10, but I do think Dwyane Wade was kinda wrong, and, I repeat, going by the rules of the contest, Gordon deserved a 10.
He trains at least 3-4 hours per day
I have a good vertical jump, otherwise I wouldn’t make the dunks I make, but I don’t jump as high as Miller, Lipek or Darlington. I count a lot on technique and I bring freestyle elements into my dunks. I practice fundamentals a lot – all types of dribbling, I rapidly spin the ball around my body and head, I throw it, I catch it, take it between my legs – I do basic exercises for at least one hour and a half. I continue with two hours of freestyling or dunking. Ball handling exercises helped Jordan Kilganon progress as well.
Harlem Globetrotters – third time’s a charm
I was a huge streetball fan, and a basketball one, as a way to practice, and with Harlem Globetrotters being the best, I wanted to be one of them. I first asked Chris Staples what could I do – this was around 2016. He was then a Harlem rookie. He helped me get in contact with them, I sent them a few videos showing what I knew to do, and they said they were to contact me. I didn’t get the chance to talk to them for a few years after that, and I was ready to quit, but in 2018, they had a show in Budapest, and I was there. I talked to their scouter who told me they were aware of me, had my contact, and they were to reach out, but then nothing. I took them off my mind, I focused on my own things, YouTube, dunking, freestyling. Towards the end of 2019, Chris Staples called to ask whether I still wanted to be part of the Harlem Globetrotters. I was on cloud nine – “Yes, I’ll come right away!”. I flew to the US, passed all tests – there were more candidates, but I entered the training camp ready.
My first game with the Globetrotters was on the day Kobe Bryant passed away. We were all a mess, didn’t know what to believe, just wanted it all not to be true. Our feelings were mixed, but the team and staff of the Harlem Globetrotters are all pros, so we stepped onto the court. People were waiting on us, they wanted to see us, so the moment we entered the court, we tried to forget all about it.
When I did that, wearing a Harlem jersey, with my name on the back, being in the US, the homeland of basketball, when I was part of the so-called magical circle, where each individual juggles with the ball – that was really a dream come true. I remember I closed that circle having spun three balls at once: one in each hand, and one on a pen I was holding in my mouth, and it felt like I’d always been there. It wasn’t the best of days for basketball, but it was an incredible one for me.