By Florence Mafomemeh
It was incredibe talent at the intersection of sports and entertainment.
Some people underestimated him from the beginning of the competition. However, Iman Shumpert proved the doubters wrong by dancing his way to the final and crowned the winner for season 30 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. The NBA star, 31, was awarded the Mirrorball Trophy in Monday night’s finale, after a hotly-contested battle on the ballroom floor against fellow finalists Amanda Kloots, Cody Rigsby, and JoJo Siwa. Shumpert has made history as the first NBA player to ever reach the final or win the show alongside his dancing pro partner Daniella Karagach who also won for the first time.
The four finalists battled for the Mirrorball Trophy during Monday night’s finale each performing two routines, including a fusion dance and a freestyle.
Tying the leader board with 18-year-old Siwa and her pro partner Jenna Johnson with perfect scores, Shumpert and Karagach found themselves as one of the last two contestants still standing with Siwa and Johnson. Kloots and Rigsby landed in fourth and third place respectively. Shumpert and Karagach carried the night and were crowned season 30 champions.
After his win, the 2016 NBA champion wrote a heartfelt note about his momentous win in an Instagram post on Wednesday. “Thank you to everyone involved in this show, I met incredible people that I won’t forget or ever stop rooting for!” wrote Shumpert. He added that, “To have done most of the lifting all season and then be lifted off of my feet in triumph from this kick ass cast put a lot into perspective for me!” Shumpert wrote.
Shumpert thanked his fellow contestants, the judges, the show’s producers and his dance coach, Daniella Karagach, who he said will “forever” be one of his favorite people.
Karagach also shared how much she appreciated Shumpert in an Instagram post that his “passion, hard work and dedication was unmatched.” “We’d stay in the studio no matter the hour and worked until you were satisfied with what you saw,” she said. “We were tired, bruised, injured and that didn’t phase you. I’m truly so proud of you and proud to call you a friend for life.”
Karagach commended Shumpert for his impressive lifts throughout the season and thanked him for “making me laugh every minute of every day.” Shumpert’s win earned wide praise and excitement from viewers after the finale aired on Monday night.
Shumpert who hasn’t played in the NBA since his last game in February 2021 with the Nets when he was on a 10-day contract, is not done with the NBA and is hoping for a comeback after his historic ‘DWTS’ win. He said he’s looking forward to returning to the court. He told TMZ after his ballroom win that he never stopped playing basketball.
“Trying to see what we can get done. I love basketball,” said the 31-year-old “They call me a ‘former’, ‘ex,’ but I told them the league just didn’t pay me this year. It’s not an ‘ex’ thing. Me and the league didn’t break up.”
The NBA free agent guard who was selected by the Knicks with the 17th-overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft spent four seasons in New York before being traded to the Cavaliers where he played three seasons and won a championship, then played briefly with the Rockets and Kings, before joining the Nets.
In an appearance on “NBA Today”, the 2016 champion said he’s still working hard and ready to get back to the NBA in hopes of winning a second championship. “I gotta get my work in,” he said. “I just gotta keep myself ready and I think my reputation around the league, just working my ass off — nobody’s going to say, ‘Is Iman going to be ready?’ Is Iman going to be working hard? Is Iman going to be doing the right things to bring positivity to this ball club?’ I don’t think anybody can question that with my rap sheet.”
As he waits “for the right opportunity”, Shumpert, who’s married to singer/dancer/actress Teyana Taylor says he’ll keep busy until then. “I’ll be doing other opportunities until that happens,” he said. “I play basketball because I love it, not to wait on a job at the same time.”
Meanwhile Siwa and Johnson also made history this season by becoming the first ever same-sex dancing couple in the history of the show.
Shumpert’s victory comes one year after The Bachelorette alum Kaitlyn Bristowe won season 19 with pro Artem Chigvintsev in November 2020 and will join the upcoming Dancing with the Stars winter tour set to kick off on Jan. 7 in Richmond, Virginia to March 27 in Modesto, California, making stops at various states and cities along the way.