Air Angelo

After the winter pep assembly where Angelo Jackson dunked in front of the whole school, City High's "Airness" was born inspiring his own line of t-shirts.

April 11, 2014

At the winter spirit assembly makes the dunk that inspired the Air Angelo t-shirts.
At the winter spirit assembly makes the dunk that inspired the Air Angelo t-shirts.

Michael Jordan was cut from his school’s basketball team during his sophomore year, but he did not stop there. That 5’11” sophomore turned himself into the six-time NBA champion whose silhouette is one of the world’s most recognizable symbols. Within the halls of City High struts a figure equally recognizable to his classmates; City High’s own “Airness”.

Angelo Jackson – or as many may know him, Air Angelo – is a student who participates in the functional skills program at City High, and was a favorite contestant at the annual dunk contest during the winter spirit assembly. Although he wasn’t crowned champion, his slam dunk elicited a powerful reaction from the crowd.

“Everytime he went up for a dunk, everybody’s mouth was open, waiting to see if he’d get the ball through,” Jamarty Hall ‘14, a member of the dunk contest and varsity basketball team, said. “When he got it through, the gym erupted.”

It took Angelo a few tries to complete the dunk, but that only strengthened the anticipation. The whole gym knew he could do it, and so did he.

“I just went up for the fourth try, and got it,” Jackson said. After each miss, he was encouraged more and more by the crowd to complete the dunk.

Jackson was born in Iowa City, but spent much of his life in Chicago, where he developed an interest in basketball. Jackson then moved back to Iowa City and attended South East Junior High. He could be identified as an impressively tall figure sporting a red Joakim Noah basketball jersey. During this time his love for basketball grew along with an interest in anime. He likes to spend his time watching TV or on the internet exploring some of his favorite characters like Sonic the Hedgehog and Goku from Dragon Ball Z. In basketball, Jackson considers himself a center, and looks up to the Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki. Standing at about 6’6”, the same height as Michael Jordan, Jackson is hard to miss in the hallway.

But something that many people may not know about Jackson is that not long before the assembly, Jackson had tried out for the sophomore basketball team, and did not make it. — yet another parallel between him and Jordan.

“I was very upset,” Jackson said. “I was crying because I was cut from the team.”

The emotion evoked from the shortcoming caught the attention of basketball coaches Brennan Swayzer and Ryan Lee. Together, they had an idea.

“Angelo’s specialty is dunking the ball. He can dunk just as well as anybody else in the school can,” Swayzer said. “The spirit assembly came around, and we had the dunk contest, so I thought, ‘Let’s give Angelo a try’.”

Swayzer approached Jackson early on the day of the assembly and introduced him to the idea of dunking in the assembly.

“I was surprised, and a little scared,” Jackson said. “I thought, ‘what would Sonic the Hedgehog do?’ Sonic saves the world countless times. I knew sonic would do it, so I wanted to give it a shot.”

Even after agreeing to the idea, Jackson was having second thoughts.

“Right before the assembly I approached him again. He wasn’t so sure he would do it,” Swayzer said. “Then I told Mr. Bacon, ‘Just call him down out of the crowd.’ And that’s what he did. Angelo came out, and he shined.”

After the event, Jackson was glad he did it.

“I felt great. I felt great, I felt great, I felt great,” Jackson said. “I learned about myself, and about taking risks.”

After the assembly, Swayzer and Lee decided to take the phenomenon a step further. They teamed up with Jacob Pajunen ‘15 to create t-shirts with a logo of Jackson mid flight, sporting his signature glasses, emulating the famed pose of MJ himself.

Jackson was as surprised to see these t-shirts as anyone else was.

“I was like ‘Oh my gosh! Oh whoa, whoa, whoa!’” Jackson said. “I was excited, and a little freaked out, like nightmare freaked out. It was unreal.”

Air Angelo
Art by Jacob Pajunen


The t-shirts were a success. They are $11.00 with one dollar from each purchase going to Best Buddies. With over $80.00 raised for Best Buddies in the first round of sales, and more being produced, Jackson has become a school-wide symbol of accomplishment. Not only did he get his moment to shine amongst his peers, but he reminded everyone of what sports and these moments are really about – a vacation from any adversity or problems that one faces.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s home living situations or just a bad grade on a test, sports get you out of whatever you were thinking about,” Hall said. “Just him (Angelo) getting out there and doing what he did, it not only shows his passion. From getting cut from the team to trying this in front of all these people, he has now shown that he can compete and do things that other basketball players can do.”

If interested in purchasing a t-shirt, talk to Swayzer or Jacob Pajunen by April 18th to place an order.

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