Orem grad goes viral with Mormon mission streetballing
Published: August 8, 2013 04:10PM
Updated: August 6, 2013 09:31PM
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A screen grab from the viral "Mormon Missionary can ball" video.

Utah Mormon missionary Cole Payne has two methods of baptism: by water, and by dunk.

Earlier this spring, Payne and his companion (the LDS Church could not immediately verify his companion’s identity) decided to challenge some locals to a pickup basketball game during their mission in Henderson, Texas. “They said, ‘We’re just a couple of white boys looking to play some basketball,” says Lindon resident Wade Payne, Cole’s dad.

In a video that has now been shared online thousands of times, the missionaries can be seen apparently missing practice shots on purpose to bait their opponents. Once the game starts, though, good heck. Payne dunks twice to shouts of incredulity, after which opponents and spectators alike pace around the court and digest what they have seen.

Wade Payne acknowledges that the rim looks a little under 10 feet but says his son has always been an outstanding athlete. An Orem High School graduate, Cole made The Tribune’s 2011 all-state football team and signed a letter of intent to play wide receiver for Southern Utah when he returns from his mission. He also played for the Tigers’ 4A championship-winning basketball team in 2012, and dad says he has a 40-inch vertical leap.

Payne told his parents about the game around Mother’s Day and sent them an SD card with the video last week. Payne’s cousin, Jared Allen, saw the video on Facebook and posted it on YouTube, and the rest was Web lore. Gawker points out that the Missionary Handbook dissuades elders from being too competitive, but Wade Payne says he’s not worried about the impression the video could have on those outside the church.

“I think it’s all good,” says Wade Payne. “It’s cool that missionaries can be seen as humble people enjoying a job.”

Cole Payne is apparently good at the job, too. Wade Payne says the guy who his son dunks on later saw his daughter get baptized into the church, and “they all got a good chuckle” when Elder Payne came over to their house on the daughter’s referral.

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper