Fans attending a Milwaukee Bucks game may be greeted by Hunter Peterson, a member of the Hoop Troop, the hype team that gets the crowd amped up. Peterson, who has Down syndrome, is a decorated member of the NBA team – even though he's not a player.
"Hunter had seen an ad on the television news that they were auditioning dancers for a new dance team for the Milwaukee Bucks. Hunter wanted to try out for it," his dad, Craig Peterson, told CBS News. "So, we went and tried out and I don't think he felt that comfortable because many of the dancers were professional dancers."
He reached out to Alex Lasry, the team's co-owner, via social media and ask if they ever thought about adding someone with special needs to their performance teams. "And the next thing I know, Alex sends a note back that says, 'We're going to make this happen,'" Peterson said.
Since joining the team about three years ago, Hunter has made an impact on many – including one of the players, Giannis Antetokounmpo, also known as "The Greek Freak."
"He singled Hunter out and walked over to the sidelines and gave him his game-worn shoes. And that was just the coolest thing,"
Peterson said. "And Hunter is 25% Greek, so that made it even more special that his yia-yia was looking down on him that day, getting the shoes from The Greek Freak."
Hunter has also made an impact on people in the stands. "I actually got an email message from a mother of a child with Down syndrome, who shared with me that when her child saw Hunter there, she became all excited because she saw someone who looked like she did working for an NBA team. So, Hunter is an excellent role model for the special needs community," Peterson said.
And when the Bucks won the NBA championship in July 2021, they had to honor their biggest cheerleader with a championship ring. "He got it on March 21st , which again was interesting, that is International Down Syndrome day," Peterson said.
Fans may look up to players on the court, but Hunter is a hero on the sidelines. "I believe Hunter is probably the only person with Down syndrome who works in a performance team in the NBA. And we'd like to see more of that," said Peterson. "You know, it'd be nice to see more folks with special needs included in pro sports."
"But it's pretty darn neat that Hunter had the ambition and he wanted to do this himself. And he loves his job. We're very proud of him," he said.
Erica Scott contributed to this story.
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