At first glance, Mike Sheppard looks nowhere near a slim All-Island basketball player. It may take several dozen looks and still not recognize the hoopster-turned-bodybuilder.
After over a decade of chasing his dream, the former Sanchez Sharks basketball star finally earned his IFBB professional bodybuilding card when he won the masters super heavyweight division of the 2020 Masters National Championships in Orlando two weekends ago.
It was his second trophy in two weeks — he captured the Texas State Championships just the week before.
After a stellar high school basketball career with the Sharks, he was named All-Island 1989-1991, Sheppard turned to bodybuilding on Guam before moving the Texas for good in 1998.
Sheppard, also known as "Big Mike," played for the Bud Kings for several years and represented Guam in the 1997 East Asian Games in Korea. He also won the Guam Bodybuilding Championship heavyweight division in 1996 before taking his talents stateside.
With over 20 years in the sport, Sheppard says his desire to be the best burns the same after all these years.
“I would say it burns more now or maybe the same. The only difference maybe is when I was younger, it was not as much with form, just God-given ability and now it’s God-given ability with consistency and mental toughness.”
Making the transition
The transformation from a 176-lb. sleek hoopster to a 280-lb. mound of muscle hasn’t been easy for Sheppard. Standing at six feet tall, there’s a natural disadvantage with longer limbs compared to the usually-shorter competition.
“Being 6-foot (tall) with long arms and long legs, it’s tough putting on mass,” Big Sheppard said. “So for the last year to balance out my physique, I worked my hamstring separately than my quads to balance out my legs. For arms, I created an extra 100-rep arm day to bring them out more. It’s like basketball – if you can’t go left, you practice doing everything with your left hand.”
A wish to return to Guam
It’s no secret that Sheppard would love to come back to Guam to be a part of a future bodybuilding show. For someone who still says he’s from Guam when people ask, Big Mike said he would like to take it back to where it all started.
“I would love to come home and guest pose at a Guam show. It was the first one I ever did. That is where I started the push for my pro card.”
In a 2015 interview with GSPN during a "Where R They Now" feature, Sheppard said he got started in Guam "when Tony Sgro, the owner of Paradise Fitness Center, decided to sponsor me. I was hooked ever since. John Dela Rosa and Ken Rios also helped me with poses and my friend Norbert (Datuin) was a positive influence on me as well."
In that interview five years ago, he credited several bodybuilders with the push and support, adding "they all saw the potential and I just took it from there."