Published in NFT

Streetball Legend The Professor Schools Pop Culture Icons in NFT Drop

We spoke with legendary And1 streetballer The Professor about his new NFT collection, which includes animations of him “breaking the ankles” of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Gary Vee, Kanye West, Mark Cuban and The Rock.

Grayson “The Professor” Boucher.

Grayson “The Professor” Boucher is a streetball legend and social media influencer who rose to fame in the early aughts, as a key player in the storied And1 Mixtape Tour — a traveling basketball competition and exhibition which arguably rivaled the NBA’s popularity in its prime. On Thursday, September 23, Boucher and augmented and virtual reality production studio RisingStar will release “Break Your Ankles,” The Professor’s first NFT collection on The drop will feature animations which depict him “breaking the ankles” of pop culture icons from the worlds of cryptocurrency, NFTs, politics, music and film — in other words, performing dribbling moves that cause the defenders to lose their balance and fall to the blacktop. Those who will get their ankles broke in the collection: former U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump; recording artist Kanye West; actor Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson; as well as business magnates and entrepreneurs Elon Musk, Gary Vaynerchuk and Mark Cuban.

GIFs of stills from the NFTs in the “Break Your Ankles” collection by The Professor and RisingStar.

Going pro at the age of 18, and appearing in six seasons of ESPN’s reality show “And1 Streetball,” Boucher has flexed his jaw-dropping basketball skills in over 40 countries around the world and is known for his ability to consistently succeed as an underdog when matched with players that exceed him in size and stature. The Professor’s YouTube channel has surpassed 975 million views and hosts the viral web series “Spiderman Basketball” — in which Boucher, disguised as the friendly neighborhood superhero, challenges unsuspecting ballers to pick-up games and proceeds to humiliate them on the court. The streetball icon has also been featured in an array of content campaigns, TV commercials and films including a starring role in the 2008 drama “Balls Don’t Lie” alongside actors like Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Nick Cannon, as well as a cameo in Will Ferrell’s basketball comedy “Semi-Pro.” NFT spoke with the blacktop champion about his upcoming collection, working with RisingStar to capture his signature moves, the allure of the Spider-Man costume and more.

Read the Q&A with The Professor below, and visit the drop page to purchase an NFT from the collection.

How were you introduced to NFTs?

Through RisingStar, who I’m collaborating with. I learned on the go as we started working together. They’ve been great on educating me. I’m super excited about learning more about and this drop we have coming up!

Did you have any prior interest or experience in blockchain technology or cryptocurrency?

I did. I heard people buzz about it for a few years and I felt a little late to the party, but now I’m realizing it’s still new to a lot of people — so I’m excited about the timing.

The NFT space has given many digital artists who have traditionally been underserved by the fine art establishment unprecedented opportunities to monetize their work; do you see any parallels between NFT platforms and streetball tours like And1?

I think one parallel that comes to mind off-top is that YouTube has leveled the playing field, as far as hoopers having the opportunity to showcase their skills. Whereas in the past, in Streetball, you had to ink a deal on the And1 Tour—which had a [TV] show — or earn a spot playing in college or professionally.

Was the last time you were digitized for the old And1 video game? How has the technology changed from then to how RisingStar captured your moves now?

The last time I was digitized was actually for “NBA Live” in 2019, and prior to that was for “And 1 Streetball” in 2006. Those two experiences were similar in motion capture at a studio. With RisingStar, it was [on] a whole different level — and I appreciated being able to watch the playbacks instantly. When they first showed me the 360 [degree] holographic technology, I was wowed by it. Basically, I was captured by hundreds of cameras and I performed my dribble combos on action. Then we did a whole other series of takes with defense. Shout out to my longtime friend AirDeezy for doing all of the defense choreography while being captured as well.

The NFTs in this collection are hilarious. What was the inspiration? How did it come together, conceptually and creatively?

The inspiration here was taking the climax of my videos, which typically [is] when I embarrass the defender. I choreographed all the move combos with my cousin Zack, who is head of content for my team and someone who I consult with on all things — on and off the court.

We thought [about], through all the years, which moves were most impressive and most prominent. Also, which moves were on the biggest videos — so people could identify them. It came out super smooth. We [only] had to talk through each of them for 15 to 30 minutes or so.

How did you pick the celebrities and political figures you school in this series?

The opponents we selected were picked by the RisingStar team, my cousin Zack and I. At one point, we were going to roll with just one celebrity — but then we realized that there was headline value in doing big celebrities, as well as celebrities who are big into crypto.

Who are some of the most surprising people you’ve played in real life?

Well, one that’s surprising is when I tell people that the best defender I have ever played against is Jrue Holiday. Dude is a beast. I worked out with him and his brother in some [two-on-two] pick-up games during a workout. It was a great experience. I won one or two games. We probably played 10 games or so, and there were two or three other teams as well.

Ever play anyone noteworthy or famous that you’d underestimated and caught you off guard?

Hmm… Most surprising [are] probably Adam Sandler and Woody Harrelson. Both of them would surprise most people, because they’re better than you’d think. I was actually in the movie “Semi-Pro” with Woody and recently worked with Adam Sandler.

If you could play any historical figure from any time period, who would it be?

This is tough. I think I would go with two: I’d say Pistol Pete, because of his innovation, and Michael Jordan — because he’s known as the best to ever do it.

How about any fictional character, besides those you’ve already played for “Spiderman Basketball?”

If I answer this, I may give away secrets as to what videos are to come.

Let’s talk more about “Spiderman Basketball”; how’d the series come about? Did you have any idea how big it’d get?

The idea actually came from my good friend Robert Monroe. The idea was to make something that could go viral. He educated me on how popular cosplay was, so we mixed basketball with pranks and cosplay. We shot the video in about 30 minutes or so. I pulled off every move I tried and made about 90% of my shots. I edited the video in a few hours right after I finished shooting it. Rob thought that it’d go viral, but not as big as it turned out. I actually thought it’d do a just a few hundred thousand views, just slightly more than my normal videos, because of the comedy aspect. The outcome blew both of us away.

Are you familiar with Spider Cuz? What do you think it is about the Spider-Man costume that leads to viral success?

Not familiar with him, but I’ll definitely YouTube him and check his content out. I think the fact that Spider-Man is one of the most iconic characters ever brings intrigue — especially when you change the behavior of the character by having him do sports or dance, stuff that your aren’t accustomed to seeing him do in movies and the classic comic books.

You’ve done some other acting as well; are you still pursuing an acting career?

Yes, absolutely. It’s [something] I’ve always enjoyed doing on the side. I’m always looking to take advantage of any acting opportunities that come my way, and even have a project I’m producing in the works.

What’s next for The Professor?

No plans at the moment, but possibly more NFTs. I think only time will tell.

Visit The Professor and RisingStar’s “Break Your Ankles” drop page.



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