While it is unlikely that Matt Bonner of the San Antonio Spurs causes mushroom-cloud explosions with his dunks, it is likely that Bonner always has interesting things to say.
Bonner, like me, is a red-headed New Hampshire native. The fact that he’s been in the NBA as I’ve grown up has made him a hero with which I could identify. All that seems to separate us is 13 inches in height, many more inches on the vertical jump and a tiny bit of basketball skill. (I topped out at Junior Varsity for my Division II High School basketball team…so I was close to his level.)
Bonner, the only New Hampshire public school student to ever make the NBA, has not lost his affable nature on the hardwood of The Association. He’s even grown a following, been given the moniker “The Red Mamba” by Kobe Bryant and recognized as “The Chuck Norris of Basketball” by some fans.
I caught up with two-time NBA Champion Bonner the day after he’d signed on to be the face of “Big Red Soda” – a popular Texas-based brand. “Compared to the average human, I’m a pretty big person,” Bonner said. “And I have red hair so it was a pretty easy fit.” Though he hasn’t seen himself in the store yet, and hadn’t ever heard of the soda until they contacted him about the endorsement, he still thinks it’s pretty cool.
Bonner shared stories from his childhood to his decade in the NBA to his favorite hometown sandwich shops:
I got lucky. (I made it because) I had tall parents so I grew to 6-foot-9. I had good coaching growing up at the AAU level and at Concord (N.H.) High School. And the third factor was parents who taught me the value of hard work and, if I wanted to make it to the NBA, I’d have to work harder than everybody else.
AAU was pretty much the only opportunity I had growing up to play against guys from out of New Hampshire. We played tournaments in Boston and Providence and Connecticut. We went to the nationals every year.
You get to see other kids your age who are much better – dudes from all over the country – and that made me motivated to keep working to get as good as the kids I was seeing.
It’s a ridiculously huge leap going from New Hampshire High School basketball to college basketball.
I think (the college one-and-done programs) are fine. You have to take advantage of the opportunities you’re given. People make a big deal of the one and done, but to me it’s only a handful of student-athletes it affects. People exaggerate the effect it has on the overall of college basketball scene.
I’m a realist. I’m down to earth. (The one-and-dones) get blown out of proportion. Think about how many scholarship basketball players there are in division one and two level – Thousands and thousands of them. You’re talking about maybe 10-15 of them coming out after one year.
Any kid that can make millions of dollars – guaranteed – should. You know the NCAA works with the NBA and they can project kids as sure-fire first-round picks.
You’d have to be pretty crazy to come back to school for a year and risk it.
My rookie year, I played with a guy named Jalen Rose on the Raptors and he used to always say, “(Basketball’s) a thinking man’s game.” And he is absolutely right. Once you get to that level, it’s almost as much between the ears as what skills and how athletic you are, because everyone’s got (athleticism).
It was really cool to have one of the greatest basketball player’s ever, (Kobe), give me a nickname, (“The Red Mamba”). A lot of other people got a kick out of it as well. Given the fact that he did it right when twitter and social media were taking off, it helped it stick.
I don’t like having people in my business too much. I’m not on Facebook, I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on Instagram. If anyone ever sees me out there on social media, it’s not me. It’s an imposter. I do my best to take them down, but they keep springing up.
My teammates on Twitter, if they have a bad game, all their twitter followers will tell them how bad they are at basketball and all these horrible things. Other people on my team…it’s like their constantly under pressure to tweet witty, interesting things. They’re always tweeting what they’re doing and a lot of it seems pretty mundane. Why would someone care if you’re stuck in a traffic jam on your way to dinner?
Patty Mills is pretty active (on Twitter) and Manu (Ginobili) is as well. So is Tiago (Splitter). Some of those guys understand because they’re the face of basketball back in their home country so I guess it gives them an outlet to connect with their fans back in their home country.
I really like sandwiches. Always have.
Years ago, (the Spurs players) had a business of basketball meeting and (Spurs management) asked us if we have any side project that would help the Spurs fans get to know us better. I decided I was going to start a blog writing about sandwiches. The Spurs.com people loved it. They gave me an outlet to put ‘em up and then it just went from there.
I do love calling them “Grinders,” being from New Hampshire, but I quickly learned that people from other parts of the country don’t know what that means. I try to use all different lingos. I don’t discriminate any more.
In Concord, (N.H.), I have a rotation between Cimo’s, Beefside, Veano’s and the Yellow Sub.
I actually developed my own equation to rate my sandwiches on a scale of one to 100. I use weighted coefficients for the different ingredients because I think the ingredients of a sandwich have different levels of importance.*
Creamy peanut butter (is better). I’m a texture guy. Up until I was about 15 years old I wouldn’t eat yogurt with the fruit on the bottom yogurt because there were chunks of fruit and stuff in there.
*Below is Bonner’s “Great Grinder” Theorem, via Grantland
Score on a scale of 1-100:
A = bread
B = meat
C = fixings
D = sauces
.4(A) + .3(B) + .2(C) + .1(D) = overall score on a 0-100 scale
The last bit of Bonner Greatness I can offer is this eight-minute long video that is the cross between a basketball instructional video and Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns” YouTube series.
Hear the entire interview with Bonner here.
Read more about the “Crunchy vs. Creamy” debate here.
Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York as a freshman at Syracuse University. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter (sorry Matt) and using the word “wicked” as an adjective. He’s not a fan of purposefully misspelt business names (“Kathy’s Kut & Kurl”) or grammatical error’s. You can follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At both locations you can make business inquiries.