During a pretaped moment, Shumpert told Karagach his takeaway from the competition: “Live every day like your last.”
His first dance on finale night was a fusion of cha-cha/fox trot to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.”
“What I love about your dancing is you dance cool,” said judge Len Goodman.
Julianne Hough, subbing for her brother Derek who was quarantined due to a breakthrough case of COVID-19, said she didn’t see him as an underdog. “You never lost yourself. You carried that part of who you were and integrated it in the most beautiful, juicy way.”
Bruno Tonioli proclaimed him an eagle who is now “the king of the ballroom!”
Carrie Ann Inaba said he was special from week one and Karagach “evolved” him in a way that is “beyond words. ... When you dance, I feel joy and I’m happy to be alive!”
He did his final dance, a free style, to Missy Elliott’s “Lose Control,” which featured multiple signature lifts and some super hyped dance steps. Tonioli: “You brought the house down!” Hough: “That was my favorite free style I’ve seen in 30 seasons!” Inaba: “That was sick, it was so good. What’s special about you, you showcased your partner. You gave Danny her moment to shine!”
Both dances received 10′s across the board.
Shumpert’s NBA career after leaving Tech in 2011 spanned a decade as a shooting guard and included stops with the New York Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers (where he won a championship in 2016), the Sacramento Kings, the Houston Rockets and the Brooklyn Nets.
Every season, I do a purely unscientific, barely educated guess on who will make it to the finals and who will win based purely on the first dance two months ago. I bombed out on who would win. I selected Matt James, the “Bachelor,” who was eliminated fourth.
I also thought Shumpert would not make it past the fourth dance, another super major miss.
On the bright side, I did properly pick two of the four finalists: “The Talk” host Amanda Kloots and Siwa. They both showed promise from day one and continued to draw accolades from the judges and enough votes to make it this far.
Kloots, who finished fourth, was consistently solid from beginning to end. “A couple of weeks ago, this just clicked,” she said during the finale. “It’s been such a release for me.”
Siwa made history by being paired with Jenna Johnson, the first same-sex couple in the show’s history. She had her rocky moments. “A lot of times I preach confidence but I don’t practice it,” she said.
Once she got over the “fear of myself ... I started showing more sides of me.” She was almost eliminated on Queen night but judge Carrie Ann Inaba saved her. The fans helped her stay in the competition the rest of the way.
“Coming here and being the first ever same-sex couple, I think people didn’t know what to expect,” Siwa said during the final episode. “And winning the mirror ball isn’t just winning the mirror ball for us, it’s winning it for so many people around the world who may be afraid to be themselves. ... No matter who you are, no matter who you love, you can dance who you want to dance with because you were born the way you are.”
I also placed Peloton trainer Cody Rigsby, who finished third, in the squishy middle ground, unsure how far he’d go. But he also made it to the finals.
He and his popular pro dancer, Cheryl Burke, managed to get past cases of COVID and performing remotely via Zoom weeks three and four. He improved steadily through the competition, hitting a breakthrough point during horror week.
“This journey has challenged me in a way I’ve neve been challenged before,” he said. “It has allowed me to be more vulnerable.”
Overall, the season featured only one truly bad dancer: “Cobra Kai” star Martin Kove, who was the first celebrity cut.