VENICE CHRONICLES: AN UNLIKELY ROAD TO THE WORLD OF PROS
NAME: Brandon Jamar
STATS: 6’10, 240 lbs
CURRETLY PLAYING: FUTURE SPORTS Meckenheim
Brandon Jamar didn’t have your typical launch into life. From the moment Dolores, his adoptive mother, picked him up from the hospital as an infant, this young man’s intro to life was far from a fairytale. He never knew his biological father and refers to his adoptive mother, Dolores, as the only goddess in his life. And she sure earned that title the moment she returned a year later to the very same hospital to adopt Jamal’s brother, Kareem.
An awkward, lanky kid who got picked on a lot, he would often get suspended in elementary school for the frequent fights he was involved in. A rebel without a cause who wreaked havoc wherever he went. Perhaps his anger and combative nature could have been linked to the early abandonment and never meeting his biological father. Jamar was a young man drifting without purpose, until his grandfather handed him and his brother, Kareem a basketball at the Santa Monica Memorial Park. Basketball became Jamar’ therapy, he channeled his frustration through each game.
Academics weren’t his strong side. He barely graduated high school. Fresh out of school, summer brought a life-changing event into Jamar’s life. Dolores, his adoptive mother suffered a stroke one afternoon in their kitchen and luckily Jamar and his brother were home. It was that moment that shook him to fill out his skin. Jamar knew it was time to grow and show up for the family and prove himself. Upon his cousin’s pressure, he went to the open tryouts for the L.A. Southwest College. Jamar ended up playing basketball on a full scholarship at the LASC. When asked about his junior college coach, Calvin Kyles, Jamar’s face lights up.
“I owe my entire basketball career to him” he exclaims.
In junior college, Jamar was faced with a rude awakening that athletic ability wasn’t enough, that discipline and focus were paramount to become a solid player. Not only did Kyles push Jamar to acquire knowledge through academics, but he also gave the young man an attitude adjustment “I can find someone in a heartbeat who will do what you do and be coachable” he would say. Kyles taught Jamar discipline and the importance of hard work. The two are still in contact till this day and Kyles is beyond proud of his protégé’s accomplishments.
After graduating Southwest College, Jamar was back at the courts in Venice. He worked the counter at Dagwoods and as security at a popular Venice bar-restaurant. In-between his shifts, he dribbled at the Muscle Beach Courts and proved himself to the point of making it into the Venice Basketball League's All Star Team. Zeon Grey, Jamar’s mentor recognized his talent and continued to develop him into a high-caliber player, connecting him with other athletes who would push him to excel. Grey also explained the distinction between “I can” and “I will” to the young man encouraging him to adopt the later attitude.
Once at Dickinson State University in North Dakota, Jamar was training for one of the biggest games at school when he got the call after practice. His biological mother, who he recently reconciled with had just passed away. Committed to his family, Jamar flew home to L.A. to bury his mother then was back on the court five days later for the big game, which his team won. After graduating, he found himself back at the courts he knew so well. Venice has always been home to Jamar. He would skateboard to the courts and continue with his spectacular dunks at the VBL tournaments while simultaneously playing for the Drew League, where ha had been a fixture since the age of 20.
As time passed, people recognized Jamar’s talent recommending him to a sports agent, which subsequently landed him with a contract in China. Playing overseas gave Jamar a new sense of pride, focus and determination. The crowd loved him, earning him a sizable fan base while there.
Once back in L.A. and playing again for VBL he got the call from Nick Ansom, founder of the league. Ansom broke the news that there was a team in Germany interested in offering Jamar an 8-month contract. And off he went to play for Future Sports Meckenheim. Playing for three months in Germany gave Jamar a great taste of the culture. He loves his team and the discipline his coach Zoran commands. The contract gave Jamar financial security along with the love of the local fans. All until COVID-19 cancelled all games and brought the world to a halt. Jamar would have loved to finish the season with FS Meckenheim and is still hopeful that he will be given the opportunity.
Jamar and his family have never been closer. He speaks with great admiration about his sister Melissa, who left her life behind in Memphis to move back to Venice and care for their mother. As far as Kareem, he too has gone on to play overseas. The two men refused to become casualties of broken homes where one grows up without a father.
I sat down with Jamar on a quiet Tuesday afternoon in Venice to ask my questions, honoring the 6-feet distance amidst loud seagulls and the signature California sun.
Who inspires you?
My Mother and my Younger brother most definitely without them I AM NOTHING.
Who was the most instrumental person in who you have become today?
I would say my grandfather and my trainer Zeon. My grandfather, Ray Anderson put a ball in my hands, which ended up having a MASSIVE impact on my life which is irreplaceable. But Zeon taking the time to pull me aside and devote his time to my development was what helped me grow not only as an athlete but as a man. Also, he put me in touch with other pro level guys to constantly help improve my game is a gift I’ll always be thankful for.
What is it like to play for the Venice Basketball League?
Playing for VBL was and always will be a privilege. Hailing from the city the league is named after always brings a sense of pride when I compete and it always is an honor to play for my city.
What was the most memorable moment playing in VBL?
I would have to say the summer before I went off to college at Dickinson State University. Some people I know in the league called It my “breakout “ summer as an athlete and I received a great deal of praise from my older peers who I competed against which was letting me know I was on the right track as an athlete.
What is your pre-game preparation process (mental/ physical)?
Music is a fundamental part of my preparation process. It allows me to drown out everything and focus on what’s in front of me. Sometimes, pre-game talks with my brother sets the stage for me to be mentally prepared for what is ahead.
You have played in China and Germany; you must miss your family when you are away. How do you deal with being homesick?
I always miss my family and being away from home is always rough. But I’ve become confident in reassuring myself that they would want me to chase my dreams and are proud of me every step of the way; also with how technology is nowadays it’s easy to keep in touch.
How would you compare your experience of playing in China with that of playing in Germany?
They are VASTLY different experiences - playing in China felt like the NBA to me. The “ celebrity “ aspect of it all, people stopping you and asking to take pictures vs. Germany being a more relaxed version of being a pro - It’s kind of like my day to day in the U.S. just at a pro level.
What were the challenges/obstacles that you had to overcome early in your career?
This one thing will always stand out for me - I’ll always remember the morning I walked into the gym after talking to Zeon the night prior. In the middle of the workout he could tell I was off, I wasn’t going my hardest in drills, wasn’t locked in and he stopped the workout and told me if I wasn’t going to take it seriously then I should go home. I responded that I didn’t want to play basketball anymore. He just looked at me and told me “Go Home” - I was ready to give up and call it quits. I got a text message from him when I got home saying “ make sure you come back ready to put work in, love you lil’ bro“. When I came into the gym the next day, he sat me down and told me that if I really wanted to give up I wouldn’t have shown up. For that reason, he wouldn’t turn his back on me, and he never has.
What was it like to reconnect and reconcile with your mother after all those years?
It was like a weight got lifted off my shoulders, I think for the first time I could talk to my mother like a man and allow her to see how much I’ve grown. That was big for me. God Rest Her Soul.
What has basketball taught you that carries over into the other areas of your life?
Always doing my best to be a good person, maintain the relationships in your life that matter, let go of what doesn’t serve me. You never know who’s watching so carry yourself accordingly - this part I’m still working on.
I just wish I had caught on a little sooner, that’s all.
What are you the proudest of?
I think making it to the pro level. Many people didn’t believe in me when I was growing up. Now those same people are acknowledging all the work I’ve put in to get where I am, that is always a good feeling.
Many people don’t know that you are a pretty skilled photographer. How did that come about?
I’ve always and my hands in different things, I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I was always into art and growing up in the age of social media I became obsessed with photos and capturing things. I saw all these photographers with amazing pages with really awesome photos and I wanted to do the same. Three years later it’s a lovely hobby I am thankful to have in my downtime.
If you could meet and sit down for dinner with anyone who would it be and why (go wild here)?
I would say Will Smith. Being one of the few actors I’ve watched since I was a kid watching him transition into social media so effortlessly is just amazing and he always has a good message. Nipsey Hussle & Gray Vee are 2 individuals who I’d love to sit down with as well because they’re relatable. Nipsey, growing up in LA around gang violence, being from a gang yet still finding a way to make it out, become an amazing artist, sticking to and perfecting his craft plus giving back to his community will forever be inspiring. Gary Vee always speaking good things to younger generations about not trying to rush your life based on someone else’s standards and always believing in yourself is something that’s always encouraging to see and watch via social media.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In ten years I would like to see myself having started a family. A happy wife with 2 kids, my brands - which I’m currently working on - being successful and helping the next generation of athletes be successful. With my family and friends not wanting for anything and having no worries.
What advice would you give to a young baller who is just starting out?
I would honestly say to my young ballers “Although the clock is ticking, be patient, you have time. Never allow anyone to rush you, everyone's finish line in life is different so always keep your eyes on your goals and dreams. “