3x3 dunk champ Rivera's rise into stardom
MIES (Switzerland) - Affectionately nicknamed "baby face", Isaiah Rivera proved his dunks were fully mature when he claimed the Utsunomiya Final dunking title with a series of spectacular rim-shattering slams.
The 22-year-old had announced himself as an emerging star when he blew away the competition at the Montreal Masters and went up another level in Japan.
The American dunker beat out fellow young gun Piotr Grabowski and dunk legend Dmitry 'Smoove' Krivenko from Ukraine to prove he is one of the best in the business.
It's been a swift rise for Rivera, who was born in Puerto Rico before moving to the USA with his family as a child. He became addicted to dunking shortly after his first throwdown at 16 years old in his backyard.
"I just woke up and I hadn't even brushed my teeth," Rivera says. "I just went outside and had the perfect jump. I got super high and that's when the addiction kicks in and you just want to do it over and over again."
Soon enough, Rivera was making a name for himself and his dedication pushed him to new heights. "When I started one of my big goals was to do a FIBA 3x3 contest," he says. "Every day I wake up, I ask what can I do to get better. At the gym I lift really heavy, like three times a week."
With a 46 inch vertical (he plans to reach 50+ in the next few months to set a new world record), Rivera can seemingly defy physics with his creative slams but he believes preparation is the key to performing under the high stakes of a dunk contest.
"If you're prepared, have put in the work in the gym, know you can hit the dunks and are consistent then you have nothing to worry about in the competition," he says.
Rivera melted social media when footage emerged of him pulling off the unthinkable - a 360 behind the back, between the legs dunk. It was a dunk that no one had seen before and has justifiably been hailed as one of the best ever.
"I get super obsessive when I'm trying to hit a new dunk," he says. "It was all I could think of , practicing the form and visualizing over and over again.
"From the moment that I posted it, Instagram went wild. I actually took a break from my phone because it was crazy."
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Right now, in a gym somewhere, you can bet the new dunk sensation is inventing slams and mastering his craft. He's sure to come back in 2020 with something we've never seen before.
Anything is possible for 3x3 dunk champ Isaiah Rivera.