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Grappling at Seven Feet Two Inches

Grappling at Seven Feet Two Inches

Most people will never meet someone who is over seven feet tall.  Now imagine showing up to class and rolling with someone who is 7’2” and a former professional athlete. Yikes.

Roy Hibbert, a two-time NBA All-Star and runner-up for defensive player of the year in the 2013-2014 season, was introduced to jiu-jitsu after retiring from professional basketball following the 2015-2016 season with the Pacers. For anyone who has ever retired from a sport they’ve played at a high level, the feeling of emptiness that comes with leaving the sport behind is intense.

“After finding out that my time with the Pacers was done I just stayed in my room for a week or two straight, just depressed before my wife ended up getting me out of my room and convincing me to go to LA the summer,” Hibbert said in an interview with Sanabul.

Jiu-Jitsu origin stories are unique; how they were introduced to the sport, their first class, and trajectory from then on out but Roy’s story is unlike anything we’ve ever heard. The airport can be a great spot to get in some people watching and at 7’2” there’s a whole extra set of experiences that come with that including the over the shoulder phone peek. Take it away Roy…

“So we’re headed out to LA and I’m sitting next to this man Sam who is showing his wife jiu-jitsu pictures. I was being a bit nosy looking over his shoulder at the pictures he was showing her, which is easy to do at 7’2”. As it turns out he had just started jiu-jitsu with his daughter recently.”

Roy and Sam then went on to talk about Jiu-Jitsu and Sam’s passion for the sport piqued Roy’s interest to the point that he decided to give it a go in LA. Hibbert reached out to Dana White, president of the UFC, to find a gym and now he was one step closer to beginning a new journey.

“I went to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Beverly Hills and the first thing they had me do was they paired me up with a guy that was 6’1”, maybe 180 pounds. They had him on top of me then said I had two minutes to get up. I couldn’t get up. I’m 7’2” 275 pounds and this guy still had full control of me. I was hooked right from the start.”

While not everyone can get a gym recommendation from Dana White, it's safe to say the remainder of the story likely sounds similar to many people. Weight advantages mean little to nothing when you’re paired up with someone who has years of experience rolling with other high-level jiu-jitsu players and that’s exactly what Roy experienced that day. 

“What I really love about jiu-jitsu is how comparable it is to the position I played in basketball as well. When you’re under the rim, it gets extremely physical and it’s also a lot like a chess match. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable and find ways to get out of positions to give yourself the best chance at success. Jiu-jitsu is essentially all of that, but a chess match on the ground.”

Roy is now a few years into his Jiu-Jitsu journey and loving every minute of it.  Below is a quick glimpse into what grappling looks like with a former NBA player. We’re lucky to have Roy as a member of the Sanabul family and looking to share more of his journey with everyone soon.

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