When WSB’s Zach Klein and I decided to venture into the world of podcasting, the idea wasn’t just to talk sports for 30 minutes twice a week. We wanted to provide a forum for some of the top newsmakers in sports and entertainment without time or space constraints.
I’ve done millions of interviews, but if I spoke to a subject for an hour in a relaxed conversational setting, it was always challenging to present the interview in similar context to the reader because of the limited space for a story or a column. That’s why we’re so gratified with the early feedback from listeners to the “We Never Played The Game” podcast, particularly the interviews with Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson.
Our latest subject is one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. His name is Jesse Itzler. If you don’t know him, no worries. I had barely heard of Itzler before he became a part of the Hawks’ new ownership group, headed by Tony Ressler. But there are a lot of differences between Itzler and Ressler, not the least of which is Itzler made that atypical transition from writing and performing rap songs to scrambling as a young marketeer and begging then-NBA star Grant Hill (whom he had never met) to record a promo to owning Marquis Jet.
Itzler lives in Atlanta with his wife and Hawks’ co-owner Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. Zach and I spoke to him for more than an hour on all topics from his background to what he thinks about the future of the Hawks. The conversation was so raw and interesting that we’ve decided to run it in two parts.
This episode focuses mostly on Itzler’s background, which includes his days as a rapper (under the name “Jesse Jaymes”). Part II will be posted Monday and will go in depth on his views of the Hawks, their ownership group, the front office and his future.
The Hawks opening the season Thursday night. Itzler will be there, as he has for years as a season-ticket holder.
Not too many sports ownership groups include a former rapper (Jay Z once owned part of the Brooklyn Nets). Perhaps you remember some of Itzler’s/Jaymes’ hits: “College Girls” and “Shake It (Like A White Girl),” which reached the Billboard Hot 100 list and made the soundtrack for the movie “White Girls.” (The rap lives on in YouTube. See below.) Itzler also recently wrote a book, “Living With a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.”
A few quotes from Part I:
• “When I graduated college, I remember all I really wanted was to make enough money to have a swimming pool, because I love to swim, to grow my own fruit. I wanted to have a little plot where I could grow my own oranges, and make enough money where I could to take two weeks off a year. I figured if I had that, it was game over.”
• “I was a kiddie pool attendant and I was a white rapper. That’s not going to get you a job on wall Street.”
• “50 was my intern.”
That’s 50, as in 50 Cent.
His stuff on training with a SEAL for a book also was priceless.
Hope you enjoy Part I. And now, a flashback . . .
Jesse Itzler (as “Jesse Jaymes, circa 1991)
COMING MONDAY: Part II from Jesse Itzler interview, including his views of Hawks’ ownership and future.
Subscribe to the, “We Never Played The Game” podcast with Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein. All episodes can be downloaded and heard on iTunes or here via WSBRadio.com. New episodes every Monday and Thursday.
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