Over the weekend, a video of 16-year NBA veteran Erick Dampier’s
son — whose namesake is Erick Dampier Jr. — spread throughout
social media, as he dunked on his fellow sixth graders in a
The viral clip has been viewed more than 2 million times in just
a few days.
Dampier Jr. is seen dribbling the ball confidently up the court,
first left-handed before crossing over to his right hand, then
easily jumping off of one leg for the dunk as the buzzer went
(Quick shout-out to the kid who had the courage to make an
attempt for the LeBron James chase-down block. You definitely get
an A for effort.)
Afterward, as the scoreboard flickered the game's 30-0 score,
his teammates jumped up to chest bump him, and one of them happily
gave Erick Jr. a hug and a few pats on the back.
Everyone was buzzing about the moment, and Erick Jr., all
weekend. BasketballNews’ Rex Chapman even tweeted about it.
I caught up with Erick Dampier to ask him about his son's viral
video, as well as how he is training and preparing Erick Jr. both
on and off the court.
Etan Thomas: So I saw the viral video of your
son dunking on cats and he’s only in the sixth grade. But first, I
wanted to ask you about the working out process you have with him.
I was watching some of his videos on YouTube and saw him handling
the ball, bringing the ball up the court; then, I saw the post
moves like it’s the Clifford Ray and Robert Parish big-man camps we
used to go to in the summer time. But talk to me how you have been
developing your son.
Erick Dampier: (Laughing) "Yes, shout-out to
Clifford Ray and Robert Parish, loved those big-man camps we used
to go to. But It’s been great watching [Erick Jr.], staying on him,
putting him through drills. I want him to be a complete player; you
know, the game is different from when we played. Big men now have
to be able to do it all. I put him through a lot of drills and try
to keep him in the gym. So we work on dribbling, footwork, lateral
movement, skills training, etc. before we advance to shooting and
post work. I want him to really work on his all around game, not
just back-to-the-basket big man drills, but everything. But the
main thing is keeping him in the gym. He plays sometimes with an
older team, but he enjoys playing with his friends and the kids he
knows as well. But the main thing is keeping him in the gym."
Etan: So you mentioned him playing with his
both age group and with an older team, could you go into a little
more detail with that? I saw a lot of people on social media asking
Dampier: "Yeah, I saw that too. But, here’s the
thing: you want him to enjoy the game and play with his friends at
the same time. All of those kids in the clip of the game everyone
saw, those are the kids he goes to school with. Those are his
friends. So I want him to have his fun with those kids, and also
play with an older group in order for him to continuously be
challenged and improve."
Etan: That makes sense, so how much older of an
age group does he play with? He’s in sixth grade, so does he play
with seventh-grade teams or eighth-grade teams? Or even high
Dampier: "He plays with a seventh-grade travel
team and he plays against eighth graders in the gym, but not on an
eighth-grade travel circuit. But yeah, I see people saying that,
but he’s still a kid. You don’t want to kill his confidence. You
want him to get better but you still want his confidence to
continue so it’s a balance."
Etan: So he’s 6-foot-5 in the sixth grade,
Dampier: "Yeah may be inching toward 6-6,
Etan: "Wow! That’s great, man."
Dampier: "Yeah and I have another son who is
right behind him in [the Class of 2034], who has been watching and
learning from his big brother his whole life and mimicking the
drills I do with Jr., so watch out for him too."
Etan: Oh okay, like Venus and Serena Williams.
He’s just waiting for his turn, huh? That’s great. So your son has
your namesake and he’s the No. 1 sixth grader in the country... Now
this is a little different — because I don’t know if they were
ranking sixth graders when we were coming up — but as the No. 1
sixth grader, how do you balance that label given to someone that
Dampier: "Well, as far as on the court, I tell
him over and over again every day that just because they rank you
No. 1, don’t get too comfortable and think you’ve arrived. You
gotta work extra hard now because everyone will be gunning for you.
You gotta prove you deserve that ranking every time you step on the
court, because believe me, the other kids who are good are going to
try to go at you and give you their best anytime they play against
you. And there are other kids just as big as you, just as tall as
you who can dribble, dunk and score like you just waiting for their
chance to shine. So you gotta continue to put the work in."
Etan: How do you prepare him for the scrutiny
that’s going to come at some point? It’s interesting because me and
my son Malcolm have been watching Emoni Bates, and I’ve pointed out
the shift that took place. He was built up to be the second coming
of KD, on the cover of magazines, nonstop praise, etc. But as you
see, this season at Memphis and really starting last summer at
Peach Jam, there has been the complete opposite and nonstop
criticism. How do you prepare him for that part?
Dampier: "We’ve discussed the scrutiny that is
going to come, and even started now. Sometimes he looks on his
Instagram page (@Edampjr2028)and sees some of
the negative comments, and he’s asked why would people say this and
he would show me the different comments. I had to tell him, 'Look
EJ, there will always be people who scrutinize you and criticize
you. In fact, you’re going to have that for the rest of your
playing career. You just have to keep working hard and ignore what
people say. They criticize everyone, that’s what they do.' But
yeah, [I'm] glad you asked that because that is definitely
something we have to prepare our children for."
Etan: And it’s so different now. Again, we
didn’t have social media back in the day. Ain’t nobody see us play
in middle school, but now things are different, so the preparation
has to be different — even for someone as young as your son. How
old is he?
Dampier: "He’s only 12. But here’s the thing:
we’ve been there, so we know what to tell them to look out for. If
I had all this preparation and knowledge and tools both on
and off the floor growing up..."
Etan: Man! I say that all the time with my son.
Like, do you know how blessed you are? But that’s why we have to
keep reminding them.
Dampier: "Even teaching him what it means to
have real work ethic. Yeah you can play with your friends, play
PS4, be talking y’all talk on the headphones — and we didn’t have
that capability either (laughing) — but you have to structure time
when you gotta take care of your working out and training. And
spending time in the gym as well, because that’s the only way you
get better. But being able to teach him and guide him in all facets
of this process, you’re right. It’s a blessing."
Etan: It’s gotta be a great feeling seeing your
little man out there doing his thing. It’s crazy because I’m
looking at the YouTube videos of him and I’m like, man, he looks
just like you. (Laughing.) There is this expression you have that’s
just the Erick Dampier expression after you score. You look up...
it’s hard to explain, but it’s your look, and it’s crazy seeing him
have that same exact expression.
Dampier: (Laughing) "Yeah, people tell me that
all the time. But yeah, it’s great to see. And I’m sure sometimes
he thinks Dad is hard on him and Dad is always pushing him. But
then, he sees how it’s paying off and he’ll come to me and say,
'Hey dad, could we get some extra practice in, there’s a few things
I wanna work on.' And you know how it is — no matter what you’re
doing, you’ll drop it all and go work with him. (Laughing) You can
be in the middle of an important call, and you reschedule in a
heartbeat. I gotta admit, it makes old Dad proud."
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