After 24 seasons spanning over 18 years, ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’ will finally feature a Black man as the show’s lead. Two weeks ago the announcement was made that 28-year-old Matt James, who was originally cast as a contestant on Clare Crawley’s upcoming season of ‘The Bachelorette,’ will instead be the next Bachelor.
But, having the first black Bachelor could’ve easily transpired years ago.
In fact, it could’ve happened in 2012 with a man Rip City knows well, adores, and appreciates.
For years, ‘The Bachelor’ and its many spinoff shows have been criticized for their lack of diversity in casting.
It took a total of 40 seasons of both ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Bachelorette,’ to have their first Black woman as the lead for ‘The Bachelorette,’ Rachel Lindsay, who first appeared in Nick Viall’s 2017 season of “The Bachelor,” was casted as “The Bachelorette” in 2018.
But it took two more years for ‘The Bachelor’ to have a leading black man.
— The Bachelor (@BachelorABC) June 12, 2020
Now rewind to 2012.
Former Oregon State guard and current Trail Blazers Television Analyst Lamar Hurd was vying to become the Bachelor’s first Black hopeful to find love.
Even though wanting to be the first Black Bachelor in itself is extremely commendable, the Rip City Analyst had a different approach, and a different vision, while wanting to make history on the show.
“It is easily the most understood thing I’ve ever done and to this day, we’re eight years removed from it and there’s so many people that have no idea of the details of what went on,” Hurd explained. “They just know, ‘oh yeah, Lamar’s the guy that ran for the Bachelor.’”
But now, we know the whole story.
Lamar’s quest to become the first Black Bachelor eight years ago, involves both Kobe Bryant and Oprah Winfrey.
“The entire process, which I have shared with you before, was all about my attempt to try and drum up enough media attention to ultimately meet Oprah Winfrey because I had this crazy idea of something that I wanted to do within youth basketball,” Hurd explained in a recent sit-down interview. “I thought if I got this message in front of Oprah – well, you might ask, ‘Why Oprah? Like how does that name come about?’ We’ll get to that in a second.”
Hurd continued, “But I thought, if I could somehow get in front of Oprah and tell her what my grand vision was for what I wanted to do within youth basketball, specifically in the Portland area because during that time I was full-time in that industry… My hope was to get in front of her and tell her what I wanted to do and the way that I saw best to try and do that was through ‘The Bachelor.’”
This may sound familiar.
OPRAH IS THE ONE TO HELP
During the Trail Blazers 2018-19 season, I sat down with Lamar to talk about a number of topics including his audition tape for ‘The Bachelor’ on NBCSNW’s The Scoop Podcast.
“That whole thing was connected to an initiative that I was trying to meet Oprah. See, that look you gave me, that’s the same look people give me and sometimes they think I’m joking or whatever, but I’m not. It’s a long story,” Hurd chuckled.
“I was sitting with a former employee of mine and we’re talking about all the impact we want to make and I’m saying, ‘look, I’ve been doing youth basketball now since 2007,’ this is 2011 where we’re sitting and having this conversation and I’m saying — ‘there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to have an organization where the kids best interest is always put first because a lot of time in these organizations in order to stay afloat, you’ve got to make some financial decisions that aren’t always beneficial to the kids experience.”
Hurd made it clear he “did not want to make one business decision that can impact… kids in a negative manner just for some type of financial gain.’”
“So, I said, ‘there’s gotta be somebody that will sponsor our organization or sponsor what we’re willing to do,’ Hurd continued on The Scoop Podcast. “And my buddy, he was saying like, ‘yeah, if there was like a movie star, you know, they’ve got some money, they’ve got some disposable income that they can burn for this.’ But I was like, ‘yeah, but we don’t know any movie stars. So what’s next?’”
The two continued to brainstorm ideas and mentioned that maybe NBA players would be willing to sponsor their organization for kids, but they decided that since their kids organization isn’t just an AAU type organization, NBA players may not want to be connected to it, adding, ‘they’re getting asked for stuff all the time.’
Thus, the grand idea of meeting Oprah was born.
“I’m like, you know, ‘we’ve got to find somebody philanthropic…’ And, I was like, ‘we gotta meet Oprah.’ And I said it like just thinking of an idea, and then I was like, ‘no, seriously we have to meet Oprah.’ And I know Oprah is another person that gets hit up all the time for stuff, but this kind of thing is right up her wheelhouse.”
Just months earlier, Hurd’s assistant at that time, Tammy, had been trying to hook Lamar up with someone since he was single at the time and she was the one to put ‘The Bachelor’ idea in his head.
And so it happened.
We threw out an audition tape and that thing goes viral. It goes crazy. – Lamar Hurd on his Bachelor audition tape in 2012
The then 28-year-old even took a trip down to Los Angeles to meet with The Bachelor executives in person.
“Everything went great,” Lamar explained of the L.A. meeting. “And this is months before they’re even going to pick who the Bachelor is, but it had picked up so much steam that they were like, ‘we need to meet you.’ After that meeting, they called me back a few weeks later and they said ‘Okay. We want to invite you to be on The Bachelorette.’ And I politely declined.”
Lamar declined because he was a man on a mission to find the one philanthropist he knew would want to help his cause of youth basketball. He was solely focused on ‘The Bachelor,’ none of its spin-offs.
As Hurd also mentioned on the Scoop Podcast, after being contacted by CNN, Good Morning America, TMZ, and Perez Hilton, Hurd shut it all down because he explained, “I had a meeting with a group of parents that said that they wanted to step in and be a part of helping us start ‘The Other Side of Basketball’ because that’s the year I started ‘The Other Side of Basketball,’ and so, that’s how that got started, the whole thing got shut down.”
Hurd ended up emailing the Bachelor executives that he had been in contact with, who he says they had become more like friends after months of emailing back-and-forth.
But now, fast-forward back to present day and we know there is even more to Lamar’s journey in hoping to become the first black Bachelor.
AFTER MEETING THE BLACK MAMBA, THE BACHELOR SEEMED MORE REALISTIC
Basketball has been in Hurd’s life since he was very young.
His passion for basketball is what drives him to want to make a difference.
It was what drove him to want to be the first black Bachelor.
He was the starting point guard for Oregon State University from 2002-06 while receiving All-Pac 10 Honors, sharing the team’s MVP award, and being named to the Pac-10 All-Academic first team during his time in Corvallis.
But it was a wishful dream of meeting Kobe Bryant back in 2010 that came true after Hurd willed the meeting into existence. And it was that meeting with Kobe that started it all. It was that meeting with Kobe that Lamar felt was a sign that he could ultimately become the first black Bachelor and in turn meet Oprah.
“[The kids camp] industry means a whole lot to me because my basketball coach growing up was the most influential figure in my life because of my passion for basketball… He was able to connect with me in a way nobody else could. He’d be able to lead me down roads nobody else could. And, fortunately for me, he was and still is a great man who taught me all the right things, took my passion for the game and essentially taught me how to live life. So that’s the youth basketball experience for me. He was a coach that was a part of everything I did — my grades, my day-to-day life, we talked about dating… There’s all these elements of life that I saw modeled in this man and it stuck with me… That’s the only reason I started coaching kids in 2007 was to try to be for a group of kids what he was for me.”
After three years of diving into youth basketball programs in Oregon, Hurd quickly found out that not all programs and coaches were similar to what he experienced growing up.
Hurd expanded on what he saw that he didn’t like:
I felt like a lot of kids were missing out because they weren’t having the same kind of experience that I had with my coach. And I got to a point where it’s like ‘No. I’m even going to do it this way or I’m not going to do it at all. This is the way it’s going to be done if I’m going to be involved. The rest of y’all can do whatever you want to do.’
In 2010, Hurd and his good friend were at a gym getting shots up.
It was then that they basically manifested the plan to meet Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
“Kobe’s just one of those guys we just never ran into. We never met him. And we are coaching kids within the organization that I was with at that time, who their parents are some of Kobe’s best friends… I go home that evening [after having that conversation of never meeting Kobe.] Turn on the TV. This is in the summer of 2011. Kobe Bryant is in China, I think it was, with one of those parents of the kids we coached that we know and they’re sitting side-by-side. And so I immediately call up the guy who was my former friend, and I say ‘Hey, I just saw this. It’s a sign. It means we just gotta meet Kobe.’”
And wouldn’t you know it? Kobe was in Oregon at the Nike Campus two weeks later.
What are the chances?
Lamar got in touch with an acquaintance of his at Nike and next thing you know Lamar is about to meet Kobe Bryant.
“That night, he invites me to this lounge in downtown Portland with some of my friends,” Hurd described the meeting. “Two hours goes by and Kobe does not show up. So, I’m asking him like ‘Hey, what’s up? Is Kobe coming?’ Because at this point it’s almost less about meeting Kobe and now more about — ‘wow, two weeks we randomly have this conversation and here we are two weeks later, we’re about to hang out?’ Whole thing seemed surreal in a way.”
After more than two hours waiting at the lounge for the Black Mamba, the group of friends that Lamar was hanging out with heard that Kobe wasn’t coming.
Lamar was bummed.
“I was like ‘Aw man,’ you know? I was sad about it. I was like ‘Welp, guess it just wasn’t meant to be.’”
But, fate stepped in just five minutes later.
My friend looks over at me again… He’s like ‘Alright, Kobe asked if you can come pick him up…’
I grabbed my keys, I was up… I was gone. I was out the door…
As I’m walking to the car I’m thinking ‘You know what? We’re about to go pick him up?’
So we get to the Nines Hotel… As you can imagine, security and all that is really high. So my friend goes up to the hotel room and he’s up there for like 15 minutes… We’re sitting in the front and he texts me and he says ‘I don’t think Kobe’s gonna come.’
Lamar was not about to take ‘no’ for an answer, though, at this point.
“I was like, ‘No, listen. We’ve come too far now so either you can get him down here or I’ll come up there but either way we’re gonna close the gap on this.’ And he kind of laughed about it all and four more minutes goes by and he texts me ‘Okay. Pull up to the end of the street.’”
Lamar described seeing the 5x NBA Champion get into his car as if it was a scene out of movie:
“Kobe comes out of this side door that I didn’t even know was there. I really feel like the door just got created so that he could walk through at that moment… Kobe comes walking out, gets in the back of my car, says ‘What’s up?’ Gives me five… And we’re driving to the lounge just having a conversation about basketball and random things, and kids, and youth basketball.”
Once they got to the table at the lounge, Hurd already felt like he knew Kobe.
“It was kind of this thing like ‘Woah, I set out on a mission two weeks ago to meet Kobe and I didn’t just meet him, we just hung out! He was in my car!’”
“So, the whole thing messed with my mind,” Hurd continued.
Hanging out with Kobe gave Hurd the confidence to take the next step in meeting Oprah.
“I still have the five dollar [ticket] I paid for parking that night to this day because I always say I held that with me as a message — like Kobe’s message was ‘Don’t settle.’’”
Meeting Kobe after just two weeks of talking about it, pushed Lamar even more to want to change youth basketball. He took that meeting with Kobe as a sign.
At the time, I’m in this whole thing where I’m stirring on the inside, like, I gotta change youth basketball, we gotta do this better, there’s kids that are being impacted. There’s a lot of decisions that are being made for financial gain over the kid’s experience.
Bringing Hurd’s youth basketball program to life with no worries of financial stress was the goal. After Hurd was given the chance to meet the 2x NBA Finals MVP; he believed he could now do what he set out to do — Be the first black Bachelor to ultimately help bring the influence of basketball to positively impact children’s lives.
DOING IT ALL FOR THE KIDS
As most people know, Lamar was not asked to be ‘The Bachelor.’
Which also, unfortunately, meant he didn’t get the opportunity to meet Oprah.
And he still hasn’t, at least not yet.
But that was in big thanks to the parents of his youth programs at the time.
Lamar explained how he didn’t have to do these grand gestures of needing to meet Oprah, he had the support he needed all along.
“Once the parents stepped in… I sent an email the next day to ‘The Bachelor’ casting saying, ‘Thank you for the last few months and the time you spent with me, but I am officially taking my name off the running.’ And people will ask me when I tell them that sometimes ‘Well, do you think they would have picked you?’ And from how long it has taken for them to get a black Bachelor, I would say no.”
It was in 2012 when Hurd started my nonprofit, ‘The Other Side of Basketball.’”
“I’ve been very happy with how things have gone just in my life,” Hurd said. “And what I’ve been able to do still as it pertains to that specific mission.”
Lamar may not have been the first black Bachelor or been able to meet Oprah; however, ‘The Other Side of Basketball’ continues to use the game of basketball to positively impact children’s lives, even with Lamar not being as involved in the programs as he used to be.
This is mission statement of ‘The Other Side of Basketball’:
We challenge kids to refine their character, to live by integrity, and to then trust their spirit.
FINALLY, BACHELOR. FINALLY…
It was Bachelor season 17 that the Trail Blazers analyst was vying to be the first black bachelor in 2012.
— Erica Rose (@EricaTheRose) March 2, 2012
Now in 2020, this will be Bachelor season No. 25.
Hurd, unfortunately, isn’t shocked that it took this long for ‘The Bachelor’ to have a black man in the leading role.
“When people used to ask me back then, ‘Can you believe it’s already been this long?’ I would say ‘Yeah, I can because they clearly have a formula with how they want to do this,” Hurd said. “And it’s been working for them. I mean, they’re making money. They’re getting viewership, so from that standpoint I can believe it. I would love to see them give opportunities to other people that want to be on there, but they didn’t and I can believe its been that long.’”
Does Lamar have any advice for the newest Bachelor, Matt?
“Well, I generally don’t give advice to people who don’t ask for it, or I don’t at least know them… and don’t know how to best give them advice, but I guess what I would say is — In our community, a lot of times black people who make it to a certain level and are seen as celebrities in any form like this guy will be seen, we kind of hold the weight for the whole community.
“So there’s times over the last couple of months where I’ve spoken on racial injustice, and as I do that I know that if I don’t communicate this a certain way, there’s going to be a lot off black people that felt left down or upset, they’re hurt, whatever the case may be. Because when you compare it to white people, we don’t have as many voices at that level and so our community really relies on us to be the word.”
I would say for this guy to always keep that in mind and people will hope and expect that he does it in a way that’s commendable. But, he’s gotta do him and be comfortable in whatever he feels is who he is. So I would say, more than anything be true to yourself. He got picked as himself, so be true to whoever that is.
Even though Lamar Hurd doesn’t generally like to hand out advice we can all learn a lot from him.
To those who say, Lamar wanted to be on ‘The Bachelor’ for the ‘wrong reasons’ and wasn’t going on the show to find love, I say, he was there for the love of kids, the love of the game of basketball, and if he would’ve found love that would’ve been an added bonus.
He wanted to be the first black Bachelor for a bigger cause than being the first black Bachelor, which was and is already such a commendable cause in the first place, but Hurd has always been about wanting to make a change.
Now, we are all about to see how Matt James takes on the role.
And if Matt meets Oprah, he better call up Lamar.