Coach Bo Bell
Coach & Trainer
Written by Malik Brown
"I grew up in the projects, and I have four brothers and four sisters. We lived in a two bedroom apartment. There were no father figures in the home, we had seven different fathers, so I had to grow up fast. I had a total of 11 jobs between ages 11 and 17. I lived only like a mile from Georgia Tech, so what I used to do because I had two younger brothers, I used to go to hang out at Georgia Tech, because one of my jobs was selling popcorn and Cokes at football games. I made friends with the football players just to get out of my environment, so they used to give me football equipment. I’d bring the football equipment back, go to the Salvation Army, and buy T-shirts. I'm only 12 years old at this time. I put numbers on the T-shirts, and I created a league with my little younger brothers and their friends in a section of our apartment.
My passion was football until I broke my leg. I was naturally good at football, so when I broke my leg, I started growing and working out. We had a football field where we lived and the light stayed on all night. I would stay up until sundown. I knew sports was going to be my way out because academics in school wasn't a priority in my house because my mother didn't know. She was by herself so I had to kind of find my way. I became a father to all my younger siblings, so I had to grow up quickly. So I just kept working out and then I started growing. What I learned through this whole process was when you serve and help others through your process and your struggles, the energy and the universe will bring energy to you that will help you with your life.
My mother was having issues with bills, so I left school and went into the police academy. I never stopped working out. I knew things were going to change, I just didn't know how, but I stayed true to the game. I kept working out. I went to the gym and worked out all night. One of my routines, I would run through the graveyard at night. I was doing some sick stuff but I was obsessed with development because I had to make it. I didn’t have a plan B. When you have a plan B you never put everything you got into the plan A. By chance plan A doesn’t work, I get another A, because I didn’t operate in Bs.
I took the money I made at the academy, and paid my way to go to the Hawks training camp, and they signed me to a contract. It wasn't guaranteed. I was getting so much press in the newspaper. The headlines said “Ex-police officer signs contract with the Hawks.” Everybody was going crazy.
I use basketball as a platform. For me, it's a form of ministry. I can do a lot of other things. I had a job in 2011, and I was the head coach for a pro-team in Canada making six figures. I quit, because it wasn’t fulfilling. This is what I was supposed to be doing. When I retired, I was an investor making a lot of money from playing, but I was still charting buses and traveling around the country. I had kids in five-star restaurants so they could sit down. You had to wear a tie, and you're going to eat a starch, meat, and vegetables. You're going to drink water, and I was teaching them how to eat with a knife and fork. What I've always been able to do is try to use this platform to help and to change life and give kids a navigational system and some life fibers so that they can go on and do whatever they want to do in their lives.
When I watch these kids go be successful and they have families, and then they come back and do what I do, that's the reward. You got four stages: the conception stage, the development stage, the maturation stage, and then you have the transfer generation stage where you have to go back and pay it forward, pay it back. When I watch kids and players that came through me, and they’re productive in life, they don’t owe me anything. I did my part, It's up to you what you do with it. When they just say, “Thank you,” it's even more rewarding, but when they don't, it doesn't even matter. Because I'm not doing it for that. I understand my purpose and I'm passionate about my purpose, I'm passionate about what I do. It's all about changing lives. It’s bigger than basketball for me."
Creative Direction: Nia Symone // Tyrone McClendon
Video Editor x GFX Designer // Ethan Garner
Photographer // Scoot Took It
Writer // Malik Brown