By the end of Saturday night, Aidan Charlery had chatted with 2 Chainz and danced with Paul George. He had appeared on the set of NBA TV and gone to a photo shoot with John Wall. His face — well, his face covered with blue spandex — was the lead image on ESPN.com, NBA.com and countless other Web sites.
“I don’t like being famous,” Washington’s mascot coordinator told me on Monday while waiting for his flight home from New Orleans. “After the dunk contest, I didn’t know it took so long to do all the media runs. I was like, ‘Wow man, you can’t just go home?’ I could do without the fame. John can have it.”
Like it or not, Charlery — or at least his character — reached new levels of celebrity after helping Wall complete a moment that Magic Johnson proclaimed “brought the slam dunk contest back.” It was especially impressive considering the 28-year-old mascot coordinator only received confirmation that his services would be needed a few hours before the contest began; he and Wall never even rehearsed it together.
When Wall practiced the dunk Thursday night in New Orleans, his assistant was Wizards manager of communications Daren Jenkins. He only attempted the dunk once in practice, and nailed it. When Wall decided the dunk would definitely be in his Saturday night routine, team officials considered having a cheerleader hold the ball before settling on Charlery, who at 5 feet 8 is roughly an inch shorter than Jenkins and more accustomed than most cheerleaders to dunking performances.
He brought his costume to the arena Saturday night just in case, and found out he was definitely in moments after he arrived. He went to the practice court to prepare, but none of the players were really working on dunks, so he settled into the arena like any other spandexed fan.
The contest’s other special assistants – Drake helped Terrence Ross, and Shaquille O’Neal helped Ben McLemore – emerged with PA announcements and much fanfare. But Charlery figured he wasn’t exactly on the level of a Drake or Shaq, so he came out of the tunnel unannounced, shortly before Wall was up. Once on the court, Wall asked the mascot if he had any nerves.
“I’m not nervous at all,” Charlery recalled saying. “You’ve got the hard part, not me.”
Then the mascot – who puts on high-flying dunk exhibitions during Wizards games at Verizon Center, and who also owns a dunk company that works for five different NBA teams and several international groups – offered some advice.
“You’ve got to do it on the first try,” Charlery told Wall. “That’s the only way to make it special. After you go into a couple tries, it leaves the door open for the judges, especially when they’ve got to make a quick decision.”
Sure enough, Wall pulled off the dunk nearly flawlessly on his first attempt. He celebrated by doing the NaeNae with George and other NBA all-stars, and G-Man joined in on the dancing.
“It just felt like I was supposed to be there, that’s what if felt like,” Charlery said with a laugh. “Man, we were ecstatic. That dance, it really wasn’t choreographed. It was just spur of the moment, a pure adrenaline celebration. When we slapped five, he slapped my hand so hard it was like man, it’s still swollen.”
As you’d expect, Charlery – who has been the team’s mascot since 2006 — was flooded with texts and Snapchats after Wall’s win. His 7-year-old son Jordan called on the phone. “Daddy, I saw you on TV,” he said. The NBA’s video of the dunk got well over a million views in its first 48 hours on YouTube; millions more saw it elsewhere.
“Personally, I don’t really like attention,” said Charlery, who nevertheless wishes he had put G-Wiz’s Twitter handle or G-Man’s phone number on his outfit before the event. He said he wouldn’t attempt to add that dunk to his regular repertoire, explaining that “if you try to duplicate it or do it again, it might tarnish it, but right now, it’s special.”
And as for his All-Star weekend in total — which included photobombing Snoop Lion and Roy Hibbert on ESPN Friday night while dressed as G-Wiz, and helping the Wizards to their first-ever dunk contest win?
“It was outrageous,” Charlery said. “I’m just glad it’s over with.”
(I should also add that Charlery was especially happy to help Wall, for several reasons, including that his son adores him.
“Honestly he’s probably one of the most genuine people I’ve had a chance to meet,” the mascot coordinator said. “He reminds of Caron [Butler]. He’s family-oriented, he wants to make sure everyone’s good, he says if you need anything let me know — dependable people who do it out of the kindness of their heart. He definitely reminds me of Caron.)