Words by Ursula Vari
Photos by Ursula Vari
When you watch Elijah Bonds, the 20-year-old LA native basketball player on the court, you know he belongs there. At 6’4 not only his stature, but his explosive drive etches his presence into your mind. And once you see him dunk you are hooked on following every one of his steps for the rest of the game. He is a regular at the courts in Venice Beach and has been invited to play in the Venice Basketball League, an all-star team that became World Champions in the Summer of 2017 in Shanghai. I met up with Elijah on a beyond windy Friday afternoon, but not even the bone-chilling wind could stop this young man from bringing his A-game even to our photo-shoot. It’s one thing to be talented and have the looks and it’s a whole other level to have humility. Elijah has all three. He recently wrapped a shoot for Vogue representing Bernard Willhelm’s Fall 2019 Ready To Wear Collection, Puma is courting him and he has a big meeting scheduled with one LA’s top modeling agencies the following week. Things are lining up beautifully for this young man. I got the chance to pick his brain about his life and his passion: basketball.
Take me back to the moment you first picked up the ball. When was it?
My parents have old videos of me as a toddler playing in the backyard on a little tikes basketball hoop. Even as a kid I was obsessed with dunking the ball. My first time playing on a regulation hoop, I believe I was 4 years old. My dad had bought a hoop and my brother and I would play for hours in the backyard. My first time playing on an actual organized team I was 11 years old. I was playing for Ken Taylor’s Streetballers, he’s the first coach that I had and the one to teach me the basics of basketball. I was always taller as a kid and had to play center even though now I play as a guard. The experience taught me how to score inside first before trying to shoot from far out as I do now.
How do your parents feel about your desire to become a professional athlete?
I have the most supportive family in the world. No matter what obstacle I face, failures, injuries or bad games they’re always behind me 100 percent. Basketball has been a driving factor in my life so far for most of my decisions. My parents want to see my dreams and ambitions come to reality just as much as I do.
Do you have a mentor who is instrumental in guiding you?
The person who has guided me the most on my journey has been my grandfather, Dwight Bonds. The lessons that he teaches have built my character to what it is now. He always has something for you to do, there’s no negotiations or procrastination. When he asks something of you, it needs to be done that second. He’s the kindest man in the world and is always trying to help people. I hope I can be as generous and kind as he is.
How did you get involved with the Venice Basketball League?
Nick Ansom saw a video I had posted on Instagram and had reached out to me and invited me to the celebration of Ron Beals. I played a couple VBL games and performed in a dunk contest and ever since I’ve always been welcomed by the VBL crew.
What is your fondest memory with the team?
My favorite memory would have to be playing on Halloween with Tristan Jass. I was playing in a sweaty mask and could barely see anything but I managed to still ball out. I also hit a brand new dunk that day, I shot the ball behind the backboard and caught it through the net and windmilled the made basket.
Tell me about the craziest dunk you ever executed?
The craziest dunk I’ve made not in game would be the Kick up, a dunk that I invented on trampolines that I have recently hit on 10-foot regulation hardwood. The ball begins at my feet, as I jump and kick my legs back I let go of the ball and dunk it with my hands. The best in-game dunk I have ever done would be a 360 dunk on someone.
What’s you exercise/practice regimen?
I make 500 game speed shots a day, starting with layups and dunks, free throws, mid range jumpers and eventually 3-point shots.
Do you have a pregame ritual that you do before every game?
I watch a video made by the NBA of Kobe Bryant highlights and drink a large cup of coffee before every game.
How did the Bernard Willhelm shoot happen?
I went to Venice beach and mentioned to Nick (Ansom) that I wanted to get into modeling. About a week later I was doing the fitting for the shoot.
What’s in your gym bag that might surprise people?
I carry around a soft light plush brick that I had earned at a Knott’s Berry Farm shooting competition in which I made zero shots. I carry it around for jokes in case one of my teammates isn’t shooting well. I would bring the brick out and throw it at them.
If you could meet and sit down for dinner with anyone who would it be?
Kobe Bryant. I’ve idolized him my entire life, meeting him would most likely result in me “fanboying” over him.
What has basketball taught you that carries over into the other areas of your life?
Life is going to get extremely tough and overwhelming, at times you’re going to want to quit. But as long as you keep trying, new opportunities will always come.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I could see myself playing professionally either overseas or in the NBA. I want to be one of the most respected figures in the basketball community and to inspire kids just as Kobe Bryant inspired me.
For Bookings contact Elijah at @elijabonds
Elijah wears: Venice Ball Apparel