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Boom Tho! Rod Benson Unleashed


Consider these three names: Shaquille O’Neal. Gilbert Arenas. Chad Ochocinco.

While all three are highly regarded athletes (or used to be anyhow), whether for good or bad reasons, they are the most buzzed about athletes who have embraced the social media world. Be it tweeting, blogging or somehow getting their name, their opinion or whatever it is they have to say out there. Unfortunately, it’s par for the course that most athletes making the move into the Internet age don’t have a whole lot of interesting things to say. Well, except maybe Shaq.
Though never a superstar on the American pro court, one of the earliest innovators of the athlete social media movement resides, and plays ball, here in Korea – Rod Benson.
Benson is not your typical run-of-the-mill athletes who play, party, talk trash and/or background dance in hip hop music videos. He’s got serious game – both on and off the court.

California native Rod Benson has been playing in the Korean professional basketball league since 2010.  As one of the league’s top players he has led the Wonju Dongbu Promy to a 10-1 record so far this year, good for first place in the Korean Basketball League.
Yet, Benson is not only known for his basketball skills, but also known for his outspoken personality. He has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and was profiled on the ESPN television series E:60 by Bill Simmons.
He’s even been referred to as both the wittiest and most tech-savvy pro hoopster, by Sports Illustrated, which also called his old blog toomuchrodbenson.com not only the best athlete’s blog, but “honest, compelling and funny” and notes that he, unlike others, “avoids falling into the trap of constantly complaining about his skills going unrecognized”.
The 27-year-old 6’10 University of California Berkley standout is clearly a winner. On the court, he’s a double-double threat every night. Off the court, he’s also an entrepreneur, cultivating his Boom Tho! line of apparel back in the U.S. which he designs, as well as maintaining his website and producing an interesting variety of videos.
In a word, Rod’s lifestyle is busy.
So what exactly is Boom Tho!?
Boom Tho!: (adverb) an occurrence of an uncommonly good thing.

According to Rod: It started with a stupid saying in college that led to an even dumber music video, that eventually became my tag line on the path to the NBA. Today, it’s a clothing line and lifestyle brand centered around fun, hype, and swag, he says.

Started in 2006, the Boom Tho! movement came to life with a small idea based on a catchphrase from his blog. Since then, it has grown into a successful company that has NBA players like Blake Griffin, Eric Bledsoe, Channing Frye and a host of actors and DJs all sport ing the brand which comes on products ranging from clothes to lunchboxes.



According to Benson, his first foray into media was designing a website to ask a girl to the prom in 2001. It failed – she already had a date.
That initial failure may have been just the thing a charsimatic character such as Benson needed. As on the court, he just kept driving to the goal and now he’s grown into one of the most well-known basketball bloggers, and businessman out there.
It hasn’t always spelled success though. When making a go at the pros, NBA scouts expressed concern that he was much more interested in his off-the-court ventures than on it, and viewed this blogging as a possible distraction to teammates and the team –  something Benson refutes.
I don’t think I’ve ever written anything my teammates didn’t approve of first. Otherwise, I’d have trouble finding any sort of team chemistry. As it stands, I’ve always been well-liked and on winning teams. That doesn’t exactly add up, he said.

Mr. Boom Tho! at last year’s KBL All-Star Game 

For now, Benson’s off court focus in on cultivating his clothing line, and his two websites: boomthoshop.com and swagbomb.com, of which he refers to as more photo and video based – less long blogs and whatnot.
And while success comes his way off the court there is still room for his true love: Basketball.

You’re A Long Way From Cali

Undrafted out of college, Benson spent several years in NBA preseason camps giving it his best shot, and four years in the NBA’s D-League, playing in Bismarck, North Dakota and Austin, Texas, with a small stint in France thrown in as well. He still stands as the all-time rebounding leader in the NBA’s Development League, but for some reason or another the breaks just never seemed to go his way.

Though there were some bumps in the road, there were a lot of memorable events. Most notable was his camp with the Indiana Pacers, when Larry Bird asked him to shut down his blog, which of course he did  â€“ sort of  â€“ he kept a diary and published it later.

What was heartbreak for Benson was a boon for others  â€“there has seldom been a time in the sporting world when fans were glad a player got cut so that the could get back to writing.

Though he never got the call to the NBA, he has come to terms with possibly never making it into the league, though he’s not giving up hope and would surely jump at the chance.

I do indeed (want to play in the NBA). I’m always getting better, and there’s nothing like playing ball in the USA. Nobody wants to say they spent their 20’s alone in Korea.



Back in the early Boom Tho! Cal days


In 2010, he joined the Korean Basketball League, where he made an immediate impact, leading Dongbu to the finals. During the 2011 finals, playing with injuries, Benson was clearly not at his best. They lost in six games.  Losing was not something he was used to.

As a competitor, I want to win every game. I’ve been to a few championship games in my time as a pro and that was the first time I lost. Back to the drawing board, he said.

Coming back for a second year, he seemed to be more focused and determined according to Kevin Campigotto, who covers the Korean League for EuroBasket.

He seems to be much better this season at focusing his frustration. Last year, he’d sort of get angry and check out a bit, Campigotto said about Benson, who led the league in technical fouls. “This year when he gets angry, he really attacks whoever is guarding him on the offensive end.”


Showing up at the KBL draft all Boom Tho!’d out


As for his teams chances this year, Benson thinks they should be considered a favorite, though they need to step up just a bit more than last year.

I’d be happy with the exact same season as last year, just with 2 more wins in April, he said.

Whatever he does, whether winning or losing, Benson is sure to have fun in the process.

And then there’s the wild side: Showing up to the KBL draft done up in Boom Tho! gear – a pink hat and a blue muscle t-shirt, which when asked why he chose that, he responded that “It’s the only thing I wear.”

Just for fun, I asked Benson his thoughts on the marketing possibilities if he played basketball for Busan’s KT Sonic Boom?

Sonic Boom tho? Haha.. never gave it a thought.


Rod Benson KBL Stats:

2011 – Wonju Dongbu Promy- 19.6 pts., 11.5 rbs, 1.5 asts, 1.5 stls, 1.5 blks

2010 – Wonju Dongbu Promy- 17.4 pts., 9.7 rbs, 0.7 asts, 1.1 stls, 1.3 blks


You can follow Rod Benson on Twitter at #!/boomtho

You can check out his apparel at boomthoshop.com and his blog at swagbomb.com

Check out Rod’s very funny HoopsHype blog about life in Korean basketball here.


Photos courtesy of Rod Benson

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About Jeff Liebsch

Jeff Liebsch has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Eurobasket, Tribal Football and Yonhap News. He can be followed on Twitter at @chevybusan.

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