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  • Writer's pictureCarlos Luis

‘Chang Can Dunk’ Characters: Chang, Chen, Matt, Deandre, Kristy, And Bo, Analyzed In-Depth

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

The poster of “Chang Can Dunk” by Jingyi Shao bears the slogan ‘Nothing is out of reach.’ And surely everything we put our minds to can be achieved with hard work and determination. “Chang Can Dunk” is a motivational sports movie that testifies to how one ought to traverse a path despite the odds and achieve one’s dream. Chang (Bloom Li) is inspired by Kobe Bryant, an American professional basketball player, and wants to emulate him. In a bid to make a solid impression on his crush Kristy (Zoe Renee) and out of a desire to gain fame, he bets Matt that he will dunk for sure on the night of the last home football game. With just eleven weeks in hand and a height of 5′ 8″, Chang marches ahead. How he achieves what he does and the means he uses to achieve the end in mind make up the crux of the movie. Alongside Chang’s struggle to dunk, we are also treated to the parent-child relationship drama that happens between Chang and his mother (Mary Ma). Could the absence of a father have had an impact on Chang? Can a mother not bring up her son alone? Who is at fault when our children do something wrong? “Chang Can Dunk” answers these and more parenting-related questions.

Chang aka Xiao Ming

Chang is a sensitive kid who keeps changing his mind. At one instant, he chooses to volunteer at the hospital where his mother works, and at another, he wants to learn to dunk and be the hero in college. For Chang, there is always an easy way to get what he wants. He thinks that when he gets famous, he will have the best clothes, be able to expand his social media presence, and be able to party hard and have a girlfriend. Whenever he is faced with an obstacle, he asks himself, “What would Kobe do?” and then acts accordingly. Chang doesn’t get along well and has a weird relationship with his mother, Chen. He thinks that she judges him all the time and is scared of her. Determined and motivated, Chang bets to dunk and outperform Matt. With just two odd months in hand, he trains with an alter ego in mind, i.e., the Red Panda. Noticing that he cannot do it alone, he asks Deandre Buckets Cooke (Dexter Darden) for coaching. Deandre coaches him to gain the grip of the basketball and find the rhythm and swagger to dunk. But Chang trespasses on college property and adjusts the metal rim holding the net to be able to dunk easily. Chang cheats on his wager with Matt and becomes famous for having been able to dunk at the age of 16 and with a height of 5’8″. Afraid that he will fail, Chang takes this step, but the reality is known to all. Chang admits that he cannot dunk and apologizes for cheating. Chang works hard, but this time he stays true to himself and does not worry about what other people think of him.


Chen is a hard-working mother who has single-handedly brought her son up. She works at a hospital and wants to do everything possible to provide Chang with the happiness he deserves. Chen is concerned about Chang, but he doesn’t care much about her. Chen wants to be informed about the different happenings in the life of her son, but he hardly opens up to her. Chen makes great sacrifices to give Chang an easy life. She knows the value of money and the importance of education. She doesn’t allow her son to get a job because she wants him to learn and rise in society. Parallel to handling Chang’s tantrums, she was also dealing with loneliness and separation from her husband. She has difficulties handling them but never makes them known to Chang. She is a mother who cares for and loves her son no matter what.


Matt (Chase Liefeld) is a star basketball player at the school. He is tall and strong and is able to dunk. In order to be selected for the team, he cheats Chang. Nevertheless, he makes a strong impression on the crowd when he wins for the school. He throws a party to celebrate the victory and flaunts his luxurious house. Chang, at one point, calls Matt a human version of a poached egg to remind him that whatever riches he has are not his to parade about. Matt does have a good physique and tries to hit on Kristy, Chang’s love interest. Matt and his team of friends are involved in bullying and only stop when they, too, become victims of it on social media. Matt loses the bet after being tricked by Chang, and therefore has to shave his head. The head shaving is live-streamed on social media, and thus, Matt gets bullied and, hence, suffers from PTSD thereafter.

Deandre Buckets Cooke

Deandre is a basketball coach working as a sales associate at a mobile showroom. Deandre lives just two towns over from where Chang lives. Deandre has his unfulfilled dreams but has played overseas and has been twice named the Estonian League’s Most Valuable Player. Deandre, although sarcastic and doubting whether Chang will be able to dunk, promises to help only after seeing the benefit he has for himself in it, as Bo (Ben Wang), Chang’s best friend, offers to make videos for him, which will help his DBC YouTube channel grow. At first, he thinks that Chang will give up training after two weeks, considering it isn’t easy. But then he notices that Chang doesn’t give up. So, Deandre is forced to train Chang and motivates him to destroy the ground and aim for the sky. Deandre is not just a coach for Chang; he is someone who cares for Chang, listens to him, and doesn’t put him down. Deandre is supportive even when Chang cheats and falters. It is Deandre who convinces Chen that she has raised a great and promising young man, Chang.


Kristy is a new student at Chang’s school. Chang takes it upon himself to give a tour of the school to Kristy. Kristy is a musician who was self-taught to play the drums by listening to and playing Rock Band (the video game). Her father, who passed away due to cancer, taught her to play Tama. Kristy likes to spend her time with Chang and enjoys discussing music with him. She becomes the love interest for both Chang and Matt. Kristy plays the drums for the school and is able to give a solo performance like a professional. Kristy admires classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and the Beatles. Before the dunking challenge happens, Kristy, along with the rest of the team, puts on a show for Chang, enthusing him with the power to achieve what he wants. Kristy is right from the start in saying that she is not a prize to be won by Chang or Matt. She reminds Chang of this fact, and when he agrees that he failed, she chooses to support him anyway.


Chang is very lucky to have a best friend named Bo, who supports him in all his endeavors. Bo even comes to his rescue when Deandre almost says no to helping train Chang. He offers a deal to Deandre that if he helps in training, he will help create high-quality videos for his DBC YouTube channel. Bo becomes the videographer who overhauls the DBC channel with his technical and professional videography and editing. The increase in subscribers gives Deandre visibility as a coach. Bo assists Chang on his trip to New York. He is only taken aback when Chang doesn’t return their calls or messages at a party. Nevertheless, the anger subsides when Chang apologizes. Bo is that supportive friend who is always there through Chang’s ups and downs.

“Chang Can Dunk” proves that we can achieve lasting success only by treading the right and difficult path. The moment we choose a shortcut, we reach a dead end.

First Published on Film Fugitives: Click Here


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