Having famously brokered the Michael Jordan and Nike shoe deal back in the day, and with nearly every college basketball player wearing Nike sneakers a few seasons later, it's not every day you get to talk to someone who has a 30 for 30 documentary about them.
The great thing about Sonny is that I always heard about him growing up. My AAU basketball coach Rick Barrett would talk about him, and how he started the summer All-American basketball camps. The first time I heard about this camp, it became my goal to make it there. A few years later, I got my chance and played in the Adidas Superstar Camp, which was the competition to the original ABCD camp.
In this episode, Sonny and I talk about the NCAA, the O'Bannon vs. NCAA lawsuit, and why athletes can't be paid a dime. We also briefly touch on the "plantation system" which some people have said college athletics reminds them of.
Overall, I am truly honored to have Sonny on the show.
University of Missouri Sociology professor Dr. Scott Brooks joins us today to discuss race and athletes in America.
After hearing his story, it's interesting to hear what happened with the Missouri football players a few months ago when they protested, and how the president of Missouri stepped down the next day. I'm not saying Dr. Brooks encouraged or even told them it'd be a good idea, but after this discussion I can see where they started to use their minds instead of just, as he labels it, "athletic identity that keeps them in a bubble."
This is so true, because for every athlete, they have a simple life, and a life that is dictated to them by the coaches. They aren't encouraged to think for themselves or look around at what is happening. But when they did look around, and realized they had immense power, a handful of them said they would not play until things changed. Immediately the president resigned.
We not only talk about this, but his journey in Philadelphia writing his book, "Black Men Can't Shoot" which he "picked a corner and got to know it" by really understanding the experiences of basketball players in Philadelphia and the environment in which they live.
Overall, a ridiculously good podcast I highly recommend you listen to if you want to understand race, athletes, and America at a higher level than normal.
Dr. Stanley Thangaraj, professor of anthropology at City College in New York City and author of the book Desi Hoop Dreams, joins us to discuss race and athletes in America.
Race is not an easy topic to discuss. It's easy to make people angry or upset, but Dr. Thangaraj has taken the topic head-on with his teachings and writings. We discuss black and white, but we also discuss the Asian culture around sports, even more specifically what it was like for him as an Indian-American athlete. His most entertaining story is when he played baseball for the first time and ran to third base, since he was used to playing cricket and figured any base would suffice.
Needless to say, this episode was packed with substance and interesting anecdotes Dr. Thangaraj has learned over the years. Some main points are when we discuss what it feels like to be labeled a "dumb jock" vs a "good student", women playing masculine sports and why they need to be seen as "hetero-sexy", and the Linsanity phenomenon. We also discuss how African Americans are treated in the collegiate setting if they are an athlete.
Overall, amazing episode, and you can find Dr. Thangaraj's book "Desi Hoop Dreams" on Amazon.
Current BMX racer and bronze medalist at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Donny Robinson joins us today. This episode was amazing because we not only talked about how he got started in BMX, but also how he became one of the top racers in the world by the time he was 19 years old.
He had sponsors since he was young, but it's interesting now when he says how some are not sponsoring him anymore because his career is coming to a close. He also discusses the injuries he had, and how serious they were.
It shows he has great intentions by the fact he really just wants the younger athletes to get outside on their bikes, and runs a "Pedals to Medals" program to help young riders. That website can be found at: pedals2medals.com
Current women's MMA fighter out of the Invicta FC, Marina Shafir joins us today. Training with Josh Barnett and Erik Paulson in Fullerton, CA, the "Supernova from Moldova" talks about how she got bullied growing up, how she got into fighting, and how she deals with the critics.
It's hard being a fighter. Not just because of the months of training leading up to a fight that will last less than an hour, but the possibility of losing that fight. The best part of this interview was when Marina said, "You are the only one who considers yourself a success."
In addition to the possible loss that comes from a fight, we discuss the vitrol that Ronda Rousey had to deal with following her loss. We both agreed that the best way to deal with this hate is to just "let people say what they want to say" and to not let it affect you because those people will just be going on to the next thing in about 10 seconds.
This episode I talk to a friend, and teammate on the streetball courts of New York City, Roman Perez. Roman grew up in New York City where he was bullied as a child, but eventually made his way to playing professional basketball in the Dominican Republic.
I loved this episode because Roman talks about the real life of a basketball player. It's not a straightforward path to being a pro...he went to school in Utah, then back in New York, and had to deal with tons of struggle along the way.
Now, he's coaching kids and helping them better their lives through basketball in the Bronx, which is where we did the episode on location, in the same gym where he trains his athletes.
This episode I talk to former Australian judo athlete Pete Ross. Pete was also in the military, so it was really interesting to hear his experiences in both worlds.
The most powerful part of this episode for me was when he relayed a quote from a former teammate who said, "The biggest myth about success is that it will make you happy." This really stuck with me because we all want to be successful, win medals, and be the best, but will we ever really be satisfied by it? If we win 10 gold medals, will that make us fulfilled?
Another great point was when we discussed society's obsession with winning. Everybody wants to be associated with a winner, but eventually if you keep competing, you will eventually fail, and that's a hard thing to deal with if you don't know how to handle it.
Pete is also an accomplished writer, and his works can be found at peterwross.com.
I was really excited when Jacqui Somen agreed to a podcast. The reason is that she was a professional ballerina, having treated dance with the same intensity that I treated basketball throughout my life.
One of the most interesting things about this episode is how she also missed events for dancing, even her prom, because she was so dedicated to dance.
Jacqui dives deep into the psychology of a dancer, wanting to work well with the troupe but also realizing that there is competition for roles. She also discusses the inevitable transition athletes face, from being "the dancer" to being "the person". I'll never forget the day I quit basketball, where I had the liberty to do what I wanted without a coach screaming at me to run more or to get to practice on time.
Jacqui is now focusing on healthy food, fitness, and wellness, and her website is jacquisomen.com. She can be found on Twitter with @
For our final part of the NCAA series, I talk to my former teammate from the University of Maine, Chris Bruff. I entitled this the "Championship Edition" because this podcast's release date is the day of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.
Some of the topics Chris and I discuss are:
Chris and I battled together at the University of Maine for two years so we both saw what really went on at this level. My goal with this podcast wasn't to take a stance either way on if college athletes should be paid, etc, but just to let the listener know what it's really like as a Division 1 athlete.
You can find Chris on Twitter with @cjbruff.
In part two of our NCAA series, we talk to current women's professional basketball player Talia Caldwell. Talia is currently playing in Spain but took time from her busy schedule to talk to us about what it was like to get a business degree from Cal-Berkeley as well as record over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
We discuss what it was like for her to balance business courses with practices and games. My favorite moment was when she compared athletes to depreciating assets. As an athlete, our bodies will depreciate over time, but there is no health insurance provided once an athlete finally graduates from that college. She mentions if you have recurring injuries from your sport that mess up your back, you will have to live with that for the rest of your life, even though it was caused from the sport you played in your college years.
She knows she can get a "real job" whenever she finishes her professional basketball career because she has set herself up for success, whenever that may be. A true inspiration for all young women's basketball players, this episode definitely deserves a listen.
She can be reached through Twitter with @KyrieShenanigan