Off the Court: Pops Mensah-Bonsu

Monday, November 8, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

New Orleans reserve frontcourt player Pops Mensah-Bonsu chatted with recently, to provide more information on his background and to discuss his interests away from the basketball floor. The 27-year-old Mensah-Bonsu is a native of London, England.
Best moment as an athlete: “When I graduated from college. I was the last person they called at graduation, and I got a standing ovation from 10,000 people. It was pretty touching. My parents were there and my whole family was there. It showed the appreciation they had for me during my time at George Washington. It was the most touching moment I’ve ever had.”
How he chose his uniform number of 44: “Barack Obama is why I chose it, because he’s the 44th President. Obama is a big inspiration to me. I used to wear 21, but when I went to Toronto, someone had 21, so I thought the next-best thing would be 44. And since I’m a power forward, I figured 44 was the ultimate power-forward number. I decided to go with 44 and it stuck with me ever since.”
Fact fans might be surprised to know: “I was a better track athlete and soccer player than I was a basketball player. I could’ve represented my country in track. I was OK in soccer, but track was my biggest sport growing up. I played soccer all the way coming up. I was a high jumper, and when I was younger I was a hurdler. I could’ve gone Division I for high jumping. But when it came time to become serious about basketball, I had to choose one (sport), so I chose basketball.”
Favorite thing about New Orleans: “The food. I like the weather too, but the food is my favorite. It has a large culture in food and has such diverse food. I’m a big eater, so whenever I can get a different variety of food, I’m going to jump to that. New Orleans is known for its food, and I’m glad to be here to try it out. I will try it out.” [smiles]
Pregame rituals/superstitions: “I have a million. I have to put my left shoe on first. When I warm up before the game, two to three hours before the game, I don’t tie my shoestrings until I step on the court. I also have to call my parents and we pray before every game. That’s only three of the 40 I probably do before every game.”
First job: “I had to do payroll at a student gym at George Washington (University). People usually think that athletes in college are just sitting at a desk, punching in and punching out, but I had to calculate people’s hours. It was pretty demanding and challenged me.”
Favorite athletes as a kid: “Michael Jordan and Kevin Garnett. Garnett is part of the reason I wore 21. When I started looking up to athletes and trying to model my game after them, I can definitely say KG was one of the players who I saw as a role model. People have told me that the way I play is similar, with a lot of passion and a lot of emotion. Obviously his skill set is beyond that of any other player, but I just try to emulate him as much as possible.”
What he’d be doing if he weren’t an NBA player: “I’m in the process of getting my MBA and master’s in business. I’m a fanatic about hotels, for some reason. Maybe it’s because I’ve stayed in thousands of them. One day I want to run my own hotel and be involved in the day-to-day operation of a hotel. It’s been my dream ever since I can remember. Hopefully after many years of playing basketball, I can branch into hotel administration.”
Closest friends on other NBA teams or in other pro sports: “I know a few soccer players in England. In the NBA, one of the players I’m trying to help mentor is (Sacramento rookie) DeMarcus Cousins. Maurice Ager and I are close, as well as me and (former Toronto teammate) Chris Bosh.”
Favorite type of music: “I have a wide range of music, but if it’s a few hours before games, it might be slow R&B or old-school music to relax me. Maybe an hour before the game, I would listen to something more energetic such as hip-hop.”
Favorite TV show: “I wish I could pick one, so I’ll give you five. It’s The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Eastbound and Down, 30 Rock, Seinfeld. Seinfeld never gets old to me. Someone got me every single season of Seinfeld on DVD and it’s probably the best gift I’ve gotten.”
Favorite movies of all time: “Coming to America, The Usual Suspects, Stepbrothers, Goodfellas, Casino.”
Favorite websites: “I don’t have too many, but I guess I’ll say Facebook. Coming from London, Facebook allows me to connect with people I haven’t seen in 15 years. I’m not a huge Facebook guy, but being able to connect with people I haven’t seen in over a decade has been good.”