Look out King James. Hans Muller is coming for your throne. With some help from his students, Muller, a gym teacher at Julia Ward Howe Elementary School in North Philadelphia, challenged LeBron James to a dunk contest.
A YouTube clip shows Muller throwing down a variety of jams as the 90’s hip hop hit “Slam” plays in the background. Throughout the clip, Muller’s students hype up their teacher’s skills while calling out LeBron.
“LeBron, I think Mr. Muller could beat you in a dunk contest,” says one student.
“LeBron, Mr. Muller will dominate you in a dunk contest!” says another.
Muller even goes so far as to mimic LeBron’s signature pre-game ritual at one point in the clip, throwing smoke in the air while dressed in a King’s outfit. But what inspired the bold video and challenge? Muller, who has taught physical education at Howe for five years, says it began with a unique reward he came up with for his students.
“If the kids were good in class, I’d attempt a dunk that they wanted me to try,” Muller said. “That’s how it started, using it as a reward for them at the end of class.”
Muller admits however that a bit of trickery was involved.
“They didn’t realize I was dunking on a 9-foot net,” he said with a laugh. “Since it’s only 9-feet I can do some trick dunks. My kids don’t really understand that the inside nets are lower than the outside nets. When we’re outside, my kids will ask me to dunk and my excuse was always that I didn’t wanna show off for the neighborhood so I could only do it inside where they couldn’t see.”
Muller’s powerful slams impressed the students so much that they made a bold and wild suggestion.
“Towards the end of the year the kids were saying, ‘you’re better than LeBron,’” Muller said. “I kind of played along with that and said, ‘yeah, I am probably better than LeBron, aren’t I?’ Then they started asking me to invite LeBron James to the school.’”
Muller says he brushed the idea off at first.
“I figured it was never gonna happen and there was no chance of LeBron coming to the school,” Muller said. “Then I thought about writing a letter to LeBron but I figured there was no chance of him seeing it. Then my wife and my brother came up with the idea of creating a video and putting it out on social media.”
Muller began working on the video in June as the end of the school year approached.
“I shot some clips during my lunch break,” Muller said. “I just asked a couple of my students to help, obviously with their parents’ permission.”
Going through multiple takes and edit, Muller, his students, his wife and his brother shot and edited the entertaining clip. According to Muller, his students were natural born performers who were able to adlib most of their lines. Monday night, after weeks of hard work, Muller posted the video on Facebook.
“We just thought it was just a fun thing to do,” Muller said. “But now we’re seeing it take off. A bunch of our friends shared it and it’s cool to see it take a life of its own.”
While Muller had a blast making the video, he says he ultimately did it for his students.
“Even if LeBron doesn’t respond or come and it’s a local Sixers player or Temple basketball player, that would be great,” Muller said. “Just some kind of athlete that my students could look up to.”
According to Muller, his ultimate goal is to find a role model for the students.
“It’s important for them to see people that come from a similar situation or experience who have made it,” Muller said. “I don’t have a LeBron James in my class but all of my students have talent. I just want them to see that LeBron works really hard at what he does to make the best of his situation. That’s basically what I want my kids to take out of this.”
The video has gained some steam on social media since it was first posted, with friends, family and followers using the hashtags “BeatThatLebron and #come2Howe when sharing the clip. So what does Muller plan to do if LeBron responds and accepts?
“If he accepts it would have to be inside,” Muller said while laughing. “If its outside there will be no dunk contest. I’d have the kids help me out and tell me some dunks that they like. They love when I throw it off the backboard and dunk it.”
Yet even if LeBron never responds, Muller says the process of creating the video was another rewarding experience that helped bring him closer to his students. It’s one of the many methods he’s used to truly connect with them.
“If they know that you’re truly in it for them, they’re gonna respond,” Muller said. “If you make it about the kids and how to improve with them and they can genuinely see that, they’re gonna respond. They know I’m genuine and they know I care about them so they respond to that.”
Muller’s students have clearly responded. But what about LeBron? Only time will tell.