Ultimate’s lifespan is short enough for the sport to have only a handful of heroes and recognizable names. Contemporaries like Brodie Smith or Alex Snyder join the ranks of Nord, Ziperstein, Parinella, Grant, Sparling-Beckley, Roth, Goodwin, Donnelly and others. But if you draw those lines back to the sport in an early prime, to a team that many consider the greatest team ever to take the field, the name of Kenny Dobyns resounds perhaps louder than the rest.
Known for his intense play and win-at-all-costs attitude, Ken Dobyns helped lead New York New York to 6 US Championships from 1989-1993 (5 of which were back to back) and 5 World titles (’88, ’90- ’91, ’93-’94). But it was not just his medals or skill on the field that made Ken Dobyns the legend he is today. It was his incredible work ethic, unflinching stare into the heart of his opponents, and a game-IQ able to isolate weakness and eat it alive. Ken brought a perspective to the game that extended far beyond the reaches of the play-field, beyond even the practice fields and into the metaphysical realm of sport and the human struggle itself.
In 1989, when featured in ESPN’s Amazing Games, the world caught its first glimpse of the part-hero, part-heel brilliance that is Ken Dobyns. The person you loved to hate. The person you feared not because he was better than you, but because he knew how to beat you. And did.
I had the privilege of connecting with Ken Dobyns in what began as a skype-interview for an upcoming article on dynasties. What developed was an enriching conversation on Ken’s career, leadership, the burden of winning, and the experiences that made him into the player he was.
In Part 1 of our three-part conversation, we go over Ken’s beginnings and the start of his Club career, including how he got into the sport, where he learned how to play Ultimate and more. Parts 2 and 3 will cover NYNY and beyond. It is my honor to present to you, Ken Dobyns: