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Tattered Jeans

Where old mascots go to thrive: The Houston Rockets' ex Turbo is still flipping elsewhere

Jerry L. Burrell, facebook page
Jerry Burrell, the Houston Rockets' old Turbo mascot, sees the world differently from most. Jerry L. Burrell/Facebook
Jerry L. Burrell, Team Acrodunk, action, basketbal
Jerry Burrell certainly knows how to fly. Acrodunk/Facebook
Jerry L. Burrell, Team Acrodunk, basketball team
Jerry Burrell is part of a new dunking team now.
Jerry L. Burrell, Team Acrodunk, basketball team
He's still a philosopher. Photo by Katie Oxford
Jerry L. Burrell, facebook page
Jerry L. Burrell, Team Acrodunk, action, basketbal
Jerry L. Burrell, Team Acrodunk, basketball team
Jerry L. Burrell, Team Acrodunk, basketball team
News_Katie Oxford_Columnist_head shot

Jerry Burrell, once the mascot known as Turbo for the Houston Rockets, was born to flip. 

The first time I saw him, he was in air. It was halftime at the then Summit when, suddenly, someone sprang onto the basketball court seemingly part gymnast, part gazelle. Sitting courtside then, I got a close up view of Turbo's stomach. Picture a washboard wearing a leotard.

One second later Turbo was propelling into another sphere, using the wooden court like a trampoline.

Turbo's jumps that night made jaws drop throughout the crowd. Halftime would never be the same. Nor would our horizons. Since then Jerry has flipped into other worlds. Air, it seems, is his dancing partner like Ginger was with Fred.

 Sitting courtside then, I got a close up view of Turbo's stomach. Picture a washboard wearing a leotard. 

When you meet Jerry, you see kindness right away. Also energy. Recently, sitting with him at Starbucks, the light behind his eyeballs seemed to burn like a kerosene lamp. 

“I flipped out of the womb,” he says, as easily as stating his name. “My feet were in the air all the time. I couldn’t just walk. I’d flip all over the place, through doors . . .”

He remembers a huge hill by his favorite aunt’s house where there was this stump. The feeling of charging, landing one foot on the ground the other on the stump and flipping . . . he found a newborn freedom! 

Anything is possible

As natural as flipping came to Jerry, so too was reading. Everyday. “Reading was just what you did,” he says, that kerosene lamp burning brighter.

He claims that in high school he was “a mediocre gymnast, but I relied on my love to flip,” he says. He was also student commander of the ROTC battalion. He found something appealing about military training, the order and precision. 

He must not have been too mediocre. His senior year, West Point called, offering him a scholarship on their gymnastics team. Jerry was elated. However, through the physical exam, which was extensive, a small hole in his eardrum was discovered. Suddenly, he found himself without a college.

Then he talked with a friend who was attending Arizona State University in the fall. Jerry thought, “Sunshine, palm trees, I didn’t care for cold,” so he called the then ASU gymnastics coach Don Robinson and asked if they allowed walk-ons.

“Of course we do,” Robinson answered. In mid-July, Jerry was accepted on scholarship.

Gaining Air

At ASU, Jerry studied architecture until he realized that it wasn’t for him and moved to business. But it was Coach Robinson who opened his world, exposing Jerry to inspirational people. Jerry was attending an EDGE Seminar, a motivational, goal setting seminar, when the notion that anything is possible took hold. Which in turn, he says, “led me to this whole idea of purpose.”

His? “To create joy and inspire people to live on purpose.” 

In 1987, after graduating with a degree in business marketing, he set about putting purpose into play. 

Today, at age 49, Jerry is flipping everywhere. He and his troupe, ACRODUNK, "America’s Favorite Dunk Team & High Impact Squad," travel the globe performing cutting edge acrobatic slam dunk shows as halftime entertainment, corporate meeting excitement, family friendly, fair and festival fun and elementary, middle and high school entertainment.

 One hour listening to Jerry and you may want to go flip yourself! Think you can anyway, which of course is his gift inside the gift. 


Jerry says he got the best of both from his parents, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

He described his father, who passed away this month as, “independent, stubborn, wants to be right even when he isn’t,” Jerry laughs. His mother is all compassion. “She has this amazing sense of what it’s like to be in other people’s shoes,” he says, smiling softly.

“So I got this wanting to be right . . . wanting to do the right thing.” Which in a way sorta describes his extraordinary ability to defy gravity via grace.

One hour listening to Jerry and you may want to go flip yourself! Think you can anyway, which of course is his gift inside the gift.

He reminds you even in the signature of his emails, of purpose. Just above his name, reads, In Service.

Born to flip, relying on love, Jerry Burrell brings joy and something more. Hope. Inspiring us to move beyond our single plane.

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