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Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Trending: It's a basketball boy wonder

By Bill Speros
Special to ESPN.com



LeBron James has Nike.

Dwight Howard has adidas.

Titus Ashby has Thomas the Tank Engine.

Ashby, who turned 2 on Jan. 25, is the latest viral sports star on YouTube. The video of his various trick shots was posted on Sunday by his father, Joseph Ashby, and has more than 914,000 views.

The video is a compilation of various basketball shots by Titus from last August to January. In the video, Titus nails some shots lying on his back, shooting down the stairs, and over his older siblings, and he hits nothing but net on a 7-foot high basket at a local gym near his home in Derby, Kan. (all using smaller balls).

And when it comes to official logos on his threads, Titus wears (practically) nothing but Thomas the Tank Engine.

Shooting the ball came naturally to Titus. The idea for a video came after he hit a no-look shot for his grandmother while his parents were out of town. "My mother-in-law was here with him and she was freaking out," Joseph Ashby, 31, told Playbook on Tuesday. "He doesn't really play with toys and his attention span is too short for movies. We just give him a ball and put it front of the basket."

Ashby, who is a morning radio talk-show host on 1480-AM KQAM in Wichita, Kan., and a full-time aerospace engineer, is confident in his son's ability, posting on You Tube: "This is the trick shot video that makes other trick shot videos look like a bunch of old guys who should have something better to do -- like retire, turn up their pacemakers, or join an assisted living facility."

Despite YouTube comments like "With the 5th pick of the 2033 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select Titus," by tuna boyy and "Steve Nash's baby" by Denzel Bullard, Ashby doesn't see this video as Titus' ticket to a Division I college or the NBA.

"I still don't think he's going to be a basketball player. He may end up being 5-8. I don't know how big he's going to be. We don't look at it that way. We use his shooting for parlor tricks. When people come over to the house, we'll say: 'Hey, look at what our kid can do.' We don't have any big dreams or plan on this," said Ashby, who is 6-3 and was a state champion swimmer at Lincoln (Neb.) East High School in 2000 before attending BYU. Ashby hasn't talked to any sports or medical professionals about his son's exceptional hand-eye coordination. "We haven't really given it much thought," he said. "It's funny reading some of the comments critiquing his shot and motion."

These types of shots are commonplace in the Ashby household, so Ashby and his wife, Kristin, have been overwhelmed by the reaction to the video. To make things even more hectic in a home that has four children 8 and under, Kristin Ashby was involved in a car accident Tuesday night but was not injured.

"It's been crazy around here," Joseph Ashby said. "Here's what shocks me most about the reaction: It's that other people are shocked by it. The shot at the gym, we had been there before and knew he could do it. We kept pointing him toward the 6-foot rim but that one was too crowded. So he walked over the 7-foot rim and just nailed it. Some people have said this is fake. We see it every day."

Most of the time, Titus will just shoot straight at a basket. Ashby, who plays guitar in the video, said he'll demonstrate the trick shots to Titus and his son simply follows suit and tries to imitate it. Titus cleans up at Chuck E. Cheese in the video, but he didn't get any big prizes with all his tickets. "Just some plastic spiders and flashlights," Ashby said.

Titus and his family will be guests on NBC's "The Today Show" on Thursday, but Ashby said he has no concerns about this sudden stardom affecting his family or coming back in a negative way on Titus down the line. "Right now, we're just going to do 'The Today Show' and go with it. Maybe he'll make some Top 10 list of this year's funniest videos," Joseph Ashby said. "These things come and go. Someday, when he's older, it will be nice for him to look back and see that he did this video."

In the video, which runs 2:56, Titus shoots over and around his sister, Isabel, 8, and his brothers Ansel, 6, and Lincoln, 4. When Titus watches himself on the video, Ashby said his son seems more impressed with his Thomas attire than most of his shots, although he does enjoy the part in the video when he makes the seven shots with seven different balls in a row and says "all of them" when that part appears.

Ashby (@JosephAshbyShow) bills himself as "Wichita's Conservative Talker." He sees plenty of irony in the fact that he's gained national notoriety thanks to a viral video of a toddler playing basketball. "I talk a lot about politics and big, dramatic, life-changing things on my show," he said. "The joke here is that I've finally done something of some influence after all these years, and it's a video of my son making trick shots."

Elsewhere:
• Michael Strahan won Super Bowl XLII with the New York Giants in 2008 but didn’t get to go Disney World since quarterback Eli Manning was the MVP. During Tuesday’s “Live with Kelly and Michael” show, Strahan was able to say “I’m going to Disney World” in this dramatization just five years after the fact.



Strahan, who missed out being selected to the NFL Hall of Fame this past weekend in his first year of eligibility, was MVP of the Beach Bowl featured on DirecTV on Saturday.

• Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Steelers seven-time Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu and New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck tell their stories about overcoming obstacles of prejudice, bullying and discrimination in their personal lives in the USA Network documentary “NFL Characters Unite” that premiers Friday at 7 p.m. The second annual documentary is part of USA’s Characters Unite campaign.

Bill Speros is an ESPN.COM contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @billsperos or via e-mail at bsperos1@gmail.com.