Last fall, Joseph Ashby noticed his youngest son Titus doing something incredible: Shooting hoops (the small foam balls that are childproof and similar objects) from the couch. Where most kids would end up hitting the pet dog, or siblings by accident, Titus' went flying through the air and as if he was a mini LeBron James, ended up in the hoop.
Almost every time.
As many proud parents do, Joseph and his wife got out their video camera and filmed their child wonder. But unlike most home videos, once uploaded to YouTube, it went viral and they received calls from everyone from their friends to producers at local television stations. Finally, a producer from the Today Show called and like many who have been swept up in an unexpected wind of fame, in February, they packed their things and headed to New York.
Three months later, Titus has been panned as a product of well-edited videos and then vindicated as a child star on Jimmy Kimmel Live. He's met Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Jason Collins and Metta World Peace. And one day, when it's all over, Joseph hopes it will be something they can look back and laugh at as one of their first big memories as father and son.
"I try to have a lot of particular relationship things with all of my kids something special that we can share and this one is sort of easy," he said. "It was almost going to happen even if I wasn't trying and -- so I'm cautiously optimistic that (the relationship that) will grow from this is unique and will continue to grow as years go on."
Since the first appearance on the Today Show, the Ashby family has learned a few things about how celebrity works. In the "Today" appearance, Titus wasn't really given any instruction so appeared a little lost and wandered around the set, missing shots and giving credit to the doubters who claimed the videos of him sinking shots were highly edited. The joke made it all the way to Jimmy Kimmel Live who called the tot "stinks without editing."
In response, the Ashby family filmed another video of Titus challenging Kimmel to a game of "H-O-R-S-E" and began a social media campaign to have him appear on Kimmel's show to redeem himself. With a better setting, he did just that, and was invited back to multiple appearances.
If anything, the sudden celebrity tour has given Joseph, who works as a radio host in the early mornings* and a contract engineer by day, a sudden influx of time with his youngest son. In his appearances on Kimmel, Joseph is referred to mainly as "Titus' Dad"whose responsibilities include:
1. Feeding Titus the ball for his shooting competitions
2. Holding a slightly bewildered looking Titus up while Kimmel makes his jokes
3. Interpreting the long grown-up phrases to get quick soundbytes out of his child.
"They'll ask him these longform questions, like 'how are you feeling tonight, Titus?'" he said. "And he's 2 so he can barely answer 'yes' or 'no.'"
He's also had to put aside all that was left of his free time and sleep time to dedicate to manage Titus' burgeoning career.
While his complete accuracy on the hoop is impressive (he destroyed Shaq and tied Kobe in his first two bouts), his interest in basketball even at a young age isn't surprising, said Joseph. The two bonded early after Titus showed more of an interest in watching NBA games with his dad, while his older siblings (he's the youngest of four) show more interest in things like cartoons.
The family's team, despite living in Kansas, is the Miami Heat.
"Ever since LeBron James and Chris Bosh came to the Heat, I've watched most every game so those are the games that Titus usually watches," Joseph said.
Meeting basketball stars like Bryant and Shaq are something that's bewildered Titus a bit (after all, they're rather large human beings and he's not really at the age where the word 'celebrity' means anything), but Joseph said he's looking forward to telling him about the experience when he's a little older. That is, if he stops being the shooting wunderkind anytime soon.
"I thought it was over right when we got back from the Today Show and thought, 'OK, that was a funny experience,'" Joseph said. "Then the (first Kimmel appearance) happened and I was like, 'OK, that was funny experience' and then they called back and said they want Titus for (NBA Finals week). Presuming we are not in the limelight forever, it will be fun to have a period of time where he doesn't have any idea what's going on and he grows up and we show him the video."
*Correction: A previous version of the story incorrectly listed the time of Ashby's radio show