We love poking fun at each other. This is not a job to have if you’ve got thin skin. You’re gonna take some shots, and you’re gonna deliver some shots. It’s all in fun. It’s that whole guys in the living room dynamic. If someone shows up and they’ve got a stain on their suit because they spilled something at dinner, we’re not going to ignore that! We’ll start the show with that! This is who we are, we’re going to make mistakes. Kenny ran to the board one night and almost revealed a little too much of his backside. Did we ignore that? No, we rode that for the rest of the night. That’s how we operate.

One misconception is that people think we’re pulling for certain teams. You want so and so to win. You hate this team. No, we don’t! We want compelling stuff. Sure, these guys are paid to give their opinion, so sometimes you pick a team to win a series. It’s not because you don’t like the other team, it’s because you looked at the numbers and think they’re going to win. So, don’t get that twisted. We’re rooting for good games.

Bringing your own personal style to television has also made you one of the nation’s most prominent bow tie guys. Have you always been a bow tie guy?

No! I was trying to think of the year, but I think it’s safe to say it’s been at least a dozen years that I’ve exclusively worn bow ties. It really just happened one night where we had a Christmas party at our house. I went out and bought a Christmas bow tie and decided I’d figure out how to tie it. I went online, and it took me 35-45 minutes to figure it out. My wife finally stepped in.

I said, “I might wear one of these on the air.” I did the next week, and bought three bow ties. I had been wearing standard ties all my life, but chose to go in that direction. Looking back on those days, I was such a terrible tier of the ties. They would be really wide, and I’d get all the typical feedback. Orville Redenbacher. Pee Wee Herman. All that stuff.

But I just stuck with it. And the more ties I got, the more comfortable I got. In fact, I just got a shipment in today. I can tie a bow tie now in 30 seconds. I do not owe a standard tie anymore. Those are all gone, given away, or donated. I’m a big fan of Beau Ties of Vermont. There’s a place in New York called Seigo. I’m just very comfortable with it, and I had gotten tired of wearing a regular tie for fifty something years. In my closet right now, there’s probably 90 to 95 bow ties. I’m trying to keep it as fresh as I can.

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Photo courtesy of TNT Sports

John Nowak

What about sneakers? I know you’ve got quite the collection there, as well.

We’ve had such a long relationship with Nike and Jordan. For a long time, they would just send us shoes. I didn’t know when I’d ever wear basketball shoes, but one night I thought these shoes would look good with this suit. Now that’s all I do, whether it’s 11’s, 3’s, whatever. I didn’t really know much about them, but people would look and go, “You’ve got the 11’s!” I’ve got what? “The Jordan 11’s!” I like these and just think they look good! It all goes back to David Corbitt, the guy who makes my suits. He’s got a spot, Bespoke Apparel in St. Louis. He and I met back in like ‘98. He’s done clothes for Muhammad Ali, Deion Sanders, the St. Louis Blues, and somehow he finds time for me. He’s awesome.

We lost our son Michael a couple years ago to muscular dystrophy. He was a Romanian orphan that we adopted, and his favorite thing to say was, “Love you too.” That I love you sign [thumb, pointer finger, and pinky extended] became really important for our family. Michael passes, David makes a suit for me, and the lining is all I love you signs. The pinstripes were all “Love you too” in script. That’s why, after 25 years, I can’t imagine dealing with anyone else.

I wanted to end on something that I’m sure you’ve been asked about. Growing up, I thought you might have been Black. There’s something about you that made me think you were light-skinned or mixed race. How often do you hear that?

I’ve seen it a lot on social media. Ernie is always invited to the BBQ. I love that! Charles will say, “This is the whitest dude I know. He likes to watch birds!” It’s funny you bring it up, because that was a question that was posed many times in past years, so I addressed it on the air one night. Charles was like, [does an incredible Charles Barkley voice] “Man, can you believe somebody’s asking if you’re Black or if you’re white?” I said, just turn the camera on me. Is Ernie Johnson Black or white?…Yes. Then we went to break.

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