Who knew that a profligate pounding to the proboscis could produce such a magnificent marketing moment?
Mady Sissoko’s RHINO attack (regular hit, in Izzo’s narrative only) threatened to end a dream season for Illinois basketball. Instead, it launched a legend.
Concussions have repercussions.
Keep in mind, Ayo Dosunmu had already written his own legend in a normal, if extremely rare fashion. His ascendance to the zenith of college basketball prominence came well before Izzo delegated his goons to give Ayo a message. Ayo made his name on the court, the old fashioned way.
That he used a moment of crisis to propel his legend into superhero status is … I mean, can you be surprised, at this point, by anything Ayo does?
Cocky young sports figures come and go. They’re mostly forgettable. Great successes get lost in a mire of mean. Specifically, reversion to the mean. Even champions.
Charles Barkley’s round mound of rebound + dazzling personality + occasionally stunning gaffes = someone whose name you recognize. “Air Jordan” is a trademark while Michael Jordan, albeit great at basketball, is a person.
Ayo Dosunmu already had the hair. His mom and sister understood that that aspect of his image was important. The Masked Dagger eclipses Ayo the person.
Dos Mamba is, as the Athletics Director might say, a discrete warrior. Unique, immediately recognizable, sui generis.
His super power, as the Athletics Director probably meant to say, is that he’s a discreet warrior. The mask offers the conceit of anonymity, and the fable that Ayo strikes when you least expect it.
Of course none of that is true. Everybody knows who he is. Everybody knows it’s coming. And they still can’t stop it.
Mamba Dos? Dos Mamba? The Masked Closer?
Illini postgame Zooms typically give first dibs to reporters who attended the games. It’s bad policy, but that’s their choice. It means those of us who complied with COVID restrictions — stayed at home and abided the protocols — go last. Or, as often happens, we don’t get to ask our question at all.
That’s what happened with Ayo after tOSU. Lots of people wanted to talk to him, but nobody asked what his superhero alter-ego should be called. By the time my turn came around, Ayo was in the shower. Da’Monte Williams cheerfully offered “Dos Mamba” or “Mamba Dos.”
The latter offers a Kobe II connotation. I reject it. Ayo is an original. The Dos part should come first, thus “Dos Mamba.”
“The Masked Closer,” profferred by the @IlliniMBB account, just sounds weak. Yes, Ayo is the greatest closer in college bball, but it’s not a good superhero name.
Ayo’s weapon, when shutting the door on an opponent, is the dagger. If he were Scottish, you’d call him Dirk. He’s Nigerian. Thus Dos Mamba, the Masked Dagger.
TALL BUILDINGS, SINGLE BOUND
Illini Report has been privileged to capture a few of those iconic moments that built the Ayo legend at Illinois. During the lean years, Illini Report was often the only visiting media credentialed for distant road games. So whether it was this (above) moment at Wisconsin, the game-winner at Michigan or a video from Penn State, Illini Report had you covered for coverage.
This year, with baseline photography verboten for non-staff, we’re all relying on others to capture the magic moments. For road games, that photog is Kelsea Ansfield.
News-Gazette‘s Matt Daniels wrote about Grace Duggan and the Illini marketing team the other day. Kelsea is part of that in-house media contingent. She’s one of the few people who travels with the team. In non-pandemic years, she captures pictures for the first 12 minutes of the game, then leaves at the under-8 media timeout, and starts editing & uploading.
This year, she’s the Masked Dagger chronicler. It’s fitting, because an Illini opponent broke her nose during a game before the Sissoko mugging.
Illini Report thanks her for her dedication & branding wizardry.