Former professional athletes have always performed well on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars competition. That continued with Season 30, which concluded Monday night, and former NBA player Iman Shumpert holding the show’s mirrorball trophy at the end.
Shumpert and professional dance partner Daniella Karagach beat out the other three finalists — celebrity fitness trainer Cody Rigsby, pop star JoJo Siwa, and The Talk co-host Amanda Kloots — to win the competition. The overall field of 15 contestants also included Olympic gymnast Sunisa Lee and WWE star The Miz (Mike Mizanin).
At first glance, the significant height disparity between the 6-foot-5 Shumpert and 5-foot-5 Karagach would seemingly cause difficulties with ballroom dancing. But the pair quickly figured out how to work through that and the 10-year veteran showed a natural talent for dancing, perhaps helped by the footwork he developed throughout his basketball career.
Shumpart and Karagach first impressed the show’s judges with a Cha Cha/ Foxtrot fusion dance set to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September”:
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Fans of the show, including TVLine’s Rebecca Iannucci, thought the combination of a Cha Cha and Foxtrot made for a potentially difficult routine with the changes between slow and quick pace. But the two obviously navigated the two dances well, earning a perfect score (40/40) from the four judges.
Contestants typically punctuate their season performance with a freestyle routine that allows the dancers to show off their skills and athleticism without having to strictly follow ballroom dancing rules. For their freestyle, Shumpert and Karagach performed to “Lose Control” by Missy Elliott (feat. Ciara and Fat Man Scoop), providing an excellent opportunity for the former Knicks and Cavaliers guard to show off some quick feet.
The ambition of a routine filled with challenging lifts and Shumpert’s fast footwork earned another perfect score and probably set Shumpert and Karagach apart from the other three pairs, each of whom also earned 40/40 marks for their final freestyle performances.
Other athletes who have won Dancing With the Stars during the show’s 30 seasons (two per year) include Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, race car driver Helio Castroneves, Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, and NFL receivers Hines Ward and Donald Driver.
Shumpert is the first former NBA player to win the competition and his participation indicated that he wouldn’t play during the 2021-22 season. Unlike active NFL players who could participate during the offseason — such as Jason Taylor, Von Miller, and Antonio Brown — each fall and spring season of DWTS takes place as the regular NBA season is played, making it impossible for NBA stars to compete.
During his 10 years in the NBA, Shumpert played for the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and Brooklyn Nets. He played college ball at Georgia Tech. He now has an NBA championship (won with the 2015-16 Cavs) and a Dancing With the Stars title.