Sunday, August 5, 2012

Past convo with Bob Johnson (founder of BET, former owner of Bobcats).

Former Charlotte Bobcats owner Bob Johnson with Maverick owner Mark Cuban.

Throwback interview with Bob Johnson (founder of BET, former owner of Bobcats). 

(Interview from March 23, 2004)

This was one of my favorite interviews of all-time. I talked to former Charlotte Bobcats majority owner for the first time in March of 2004. We talked right before the Bobcats were an official NBA team.

I still talk about this interview with some people today. I'm quick to point out that I know Bob Johnson. I didn't know him before doing this interview. I only admired him from a distance. We all know him as the founder and former CEO of BET. He also serves on the board of a number of businesses. Johnson has his hands in a number of things. He'll tell you that his life isn't that busy. And I'll continue to tell you and him differently. Busy or not, he's still the coolest guy in sports and business.

I've talked to Bob countless times since this interview. Yet, this is the conversation that I will probably remember forever.

Bob: Hey, Anthony. How are you?
Anthony: I'm doing good. How are you doing, Mr. Johnson?
Bob: I'm doing great.
Anthony: Is it OK if I call you Bob?
Bob: Sure.

Anthony: OK. So how's everything been going?

Bob: Things have been going great. Charlotte is a great city to live in. It's a great city to work in. And the town is a great sports town, obviously. The people have really embraced the new Charlotte Bobcats franchise, completely. I'm looking forward to the start of the season this fall.

Anthony: OK. Bob, how would you compare being the founder of BET (Black Entertainment Television) to being the owner of both the Charlotte Bobcat and Charlotte Sting (former WNBA team)?
Former Bobcat owner Bob Johnson.

Bob: There are a lot of parallels. You're in the entertainment business, in a way. Sports is very much entertainment. Just like at BET, you've got to deal with celebrities, stars and their managers, to some extent. And every night your players have to go and perform. Sports is also an emotional connection, just like drama. People cry when you lose and cheer when you win. There are a lot of parallels in terms of visibility as well.

Anthony:  Tell me how long you've wanted to own a sports franchise?
Bob: I've been looking into getting an NBA franchise, oh probably going back the last six or seven years. Again, it's a product that I understand. It was something that I thought I'd like to do once I left BET.

Anthony: You have a very busy life (Both smile.) Can you tell me what a day with Bob Johnson is like?
Bob: Well, Anthony. It's not as busy as you might think.
Anthony: Really?
Bob: No, I've got a lot of people who run the businesses that I've involved in. That leaves me with a lot of time to sort of strategically think of new business opportunities. It's more fun than it is work.
Anthony: Bob, tell me what some of your hobbies are.
Bob: I like to play tennis. I read books. I might learn how to play golf one day. (Both laugh.) I go out to dinner with friends, and that's about it.

Anthony: What sports did you play while you were coming up? 
Bob: I played a little bit of basketball and baseball. 
Anthony: Were you any good? 
Bob: Well, not good enough to go to college on scholarship.
Anthony: Which NBA team was your favorite to watch before you became an owner?
Bob: I used to watch the Chicago Bulls, just like everyone else. That's where Michael (Jordan) played, so everybody watched them. I also watched the Wizards when he played with them. I'm obviously fans of teams that are close to Philly. I like (Allen) Iverson. I also like C-Web (Chris Webber) because he used to play in D.C.
Anthony: Speaking of Michael, what happened with the partnership with you and M.J.?
Bob: Well, it wasn't a partnership. Michael and I have been good friends, going back 10 or 12 years. We've always talked about one of us owning a basketball team one day. He made his run at the Wizards and it didn't work out. Then I got the (Charlotte) franchise, and I started talking to him to see if he wanted to be a partner with this. He's like me and got the "ownership bug." So once you get that there's not much you can do except do your best to try to buy a team. And that's what Michael is doing. We talked about him coming with me, but at the end of the day he wanted to be an owner. As an owner I can understand that emotion. So one day he will be an owner. 
M.J. and Johnson sit courtside.
Anthony: (Smiles.) Let's switch this up a little bit. Tell me your favorite movie.
Bob: "Gladiators." 
Anthony: Who's your favorite entertainer?
Bob: Denzel Washington is a great buddy of mine. Of course, he's a great actor. Morgan Freeman is also one of the finest actors in the country.
Anthony: Do you have a any future plans do get into politics?
Bob: No.

Anthony: (Smiles.) OK. I'll leave that alone. Let's conclude with free association, where you simply tell me the first thing that comes to mind.
Bob: (Smiles.) OK.
Anthony: Earth, Wind and Fire.
Bob: Great band.
Anthony: Bill Cosby.
Bob: Funny.
Anthony: We're done. (Smiles.) Thanks for the time.
Bob: You bet.

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