When most people think of NBA basketballers, the usual suspects like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James spring to mind. Now if you were to narrow the list down to British ballers that are successful in the NBA and Luol Deng will most probably be the first name on your lips.
But Tottenham born Pops Mensah-Bonsu has been the name on everyone’s lips recently after an impressive end to the season playing for the Toronto Raptors. His performance will most likely see the 6ft 5 star secure a long term contract for the Canadian team.
But amidst playing in sell out arenas for the Raptors and representing Great Britain, Bonsu, who is sometimes referred to as “Big Daddy” by US commentators has made it clear he hasn’t forgotten his roots and is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
Flavour caught up with Pops who was in town to promote the NBA Great Britain Men’s Basketball games at the 02 but more importantly campaign against gang violence in London amongst young people.
Pops was in his north London hometown showing youngsters the fundaments of basketball and spoke about the importance of community projects for the kids, how London will always be home and how Giggs’ ‘Talking the Hardest’ gets him ready for a game.
How important is it to get the kids involved in community projects like these to keep them off the streets?
It’s highly important because I know when I was at this age I didn’t have anything like this. I started playing at 14, if I had something like this when I was maybe 7 or 8; only God knows where I could be right now. He still has blessed me to get to the level I’m at now but I’m hoping an impact like this can help a few of them get to where I’m at now, if not better, so whatever I can do to help them out, I’m definitely going to do it.
You’re regularly back and forth from the US to the UK, where would you say home is for you?
I’m a Tottenham boy, I was born and raised in London, this is my home I mean I live in the US now but I always make sure I never forget my roots. Like I said I’m Tottenham all day, you can never forget where you’re from. This is where I started and this is what made me the person I am today so I’m going to embrace it and keep it like that.
Earlier on we heard one of the kids scream your name and say ‘the next Michael Jordon’…
[Pops laughs] That means a lot you know because I was in a the same place a long time ago and for one of the kids to say that randomly shows how much they appreciate me and what other guys are doing in the NBA so it really touched me to hear somebody say that.
So Pops on a lighter note, how do you prepare for a game, what’s on your Ipod before a game, is it UK artists or US artists?
Both really, I’m a big fan of UK music, funky house is big, but Giggs had one tune that I still listen to up till now before my games called Talking the Hardest , I make sure I listen to that, you can’t get a better song than that. I’m listening to Jay-Z before my games; I listen to Rick Ross as well. I’m listening to Drake as well, Drake is big. But I make sure I always got some Jay-Z in rotation somewhere on my Ipod because he gets me going. I gotta show love to Jay- Z and that Giggs track.
You can catch Pops in the U.K. next on the 14th- 16th of August at the 02 arena where the GB team will take the court for the Four Nations basketball tournament.
Words by Richard Ashie