My friend Bomani Jones’ origin story began in Atlanta. His family moved to Nigeria for a year and then around the time he turned 7 they settled in Houston. His first love was the Atlanta Braves. Houston Oiler Warren Moon was one of his favorite players. But the sports poster on his wall helped to guide his career.
“When your name is Bo and then Bo Jackson comes around … You probably remember his poster too — the ‘Bo Knows’ poster that went longways. It had him in the baseball uniform and football and then in basketball and then in biker shorts and all of that stuff,” he told me on this week’s “Renaissance Man” of that iconic banner-style Nike placard from the 1990s.
When people asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up, he said, “I want to be a jack-of-all-trades because people always told me I could do all these different things and I wanted to do them all. And I look back at it, [it’s] like that Bo Jackson poster, that concept and that idea. And when you look at what I do now, it’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that. It’s a whole lot of everything.”
I believe he accomplished that. Before he pivoted into media and became an Emmy award-winning journalist, he was working toward his Ph.D. in economics. His show “Game Theory With Bomani Jones,” which airs Friday nights on HBO, is now in its second season.
“I want to be very clear that Jake Paul later accused us of trying to use him and his name for clout — 100% true. No question about that,” he said.
When I was a guest, he did a segment on Coach K’s legacy, which became an exploration of the age-old question that has been pondered in documentaries and books. Why do we all hate Duke? But he took an even narrower lane.
“I grew up hating Duke. Everybody, every black person I knew hated Duke, right? And I’m like, ‘Why do we all hate Duke?’ We just went up and down the list and we realized, man, they beat every team black people loved. They weren’t cheating and beating and beating. Christian Laettner really was that dude,” he said, adding that the Duke star took on players like Shaquille O’Neal, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson. “And I was like, ‘Wow, they really terrorized our people.’ And I just wanted to do a long essay about that and white people loved it.”
In our interview, we tackled timely topics like two black quarterbacks playing in the Super Bowl. He called Jalen Hurts a “solid dude.” But he had another label for Patrick Mahomes, who he said is “probably the greatest quarterback that’s ever played football. I’ll take this dude over Tom Brady every single time.” We talked about why Eric Bieniemy hasn’t gotten a head coaching position yet.
Bomani is an acolyte of the late great sports journalist and author Ralph Wiley, whom he called his sensei. But the most important sports book he’s ever read is “Friday Night Lights” by Buzz Bissinger.
“I understand sports so much better from reading that book because it puts sports in the context of identity and the people who consume and care about it. So it’s obviously about high school football and all this, but it also kind of doubles as a sociological study,” he said. “It doubles as a study of race in the 1980s in America. But what it really helped me to understand was why sports were so important to the people who watch them.”
Since we’re talking cultural pursuits, I had to ask about his dual hometowns of Atlanta and Houston. Who has the better adult entertainment venues?
“It’s a show in Atlanta. You know what I mean? It is a production. It is a Cirque du Soleil sort of situation in Atlanta. In Houston, it’s a bit more of a really, really, really good time,” he said. “I feel like the top-level strip clubs in Atlanta are like great restaurants. And the best strip clubs in Houston are like your favorite spot.”
And as the saying goes, “Bo knows.”
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive-produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.