James It’s Not About Me: James “JB” Brown

The lights come on. The red light on the camera sends a signal as an off camera voice announces, “The NFL Today is on the air.” Every Sunday, millions of viewers across the country gather around their televisions to prepare for the games of the day by tuning in to this Emmy‐award winning show. Few realize that among the Hall of Fame coaches and players giving their analysis is an ordained minister.

The host, James Brown, or “JB” as he is known by nearly everyone was a pretty good athlete himself. He grew up in Washington D.C., and was a high school all-American at De Matha High School in the late 60’s, playing for the legendary Morgan Wooten. He was offered a scholarship to play basketball for some of the premier colleges in the nation, including Duke, North Carolina, and UCLA, but to honor a promise he made to his mother, he wound up at Harvard. While there, he set a number of school records, and was named all-Ivy league three years in a row. His dream of becoming a professional basketball player was in sight when he was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the 4th round of the 1973 National Basketball Association draft. He was devastated when the Hawks cut him before the start of the season. In an interview with the Washington Post, he said, “I went home and cried like a baby. I really thought I was going to make that team. But it was the turning point of my life.”

He entered the business world taking a job with the Xerox Corporation, working hard, and partying equally hard, and engaging in what he refers to as “hedonistic pursuits.” One night, coming home from a Xerox training session, he realized the emptiness of his life. Thinking back on Gospel messages he had heard as a boy, he said, “Lord, if you will come into my life, I want to dedicate myself to you. That’s why I have this void, because you are not there.”

In 1978, he returned to the sports world as a commentator for the Washington Bullets, now the Washington Wizards, and doing sports broadcasts for the local CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C. His talent did not go unrecognized, and he became a regular commentator in 1984 for NFL games on CBS as well as some college basketball broadcasts, and even the National Hockey League and the 1992 Winter Olympics.

During this time, his faith continued to grow as he became engrossed with studying the Word of God, especially the King James Version, his favorite. He was also encouraged by his wife Dorothy, also a strong believer. It carried over to his professional life. In 1994, he left CBS to work for Fox Sports, and became the host of the NFL on FOX. This paired him with co-hosts Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and Jimmie Johnson. His Christian testimony did not go unnoticed here. In a story shared in Decision Magazine, he tells of the night Bradshaw, who took the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowls, approached him while going through a painful divorce. “Can you take me home,” he said. “I’d like to spend some time talking with you about some challenges, and quite frankly, would you pray with me?”

In 2006, he went back to CBS Sports to host “The NFL Today.” Before every broadcast, JB spends time in prayer with his wife Dorothy. He sees every broadcast as an opportunity to be used by God, not just on camera, but with whomever he meets along the way. Good friend Tony Dungy that says that going to a game with him can be quite an experience. He talks to cab drivers, ticket takers, concessionaires, and he rarely refuses an autograph. JB is also involved in a weekly Bible Study via telephone with Dungy, the former Super Bowl champion coach, and current NBC commentator. Dungy sums up his friend by saying, “Everything he does is from a Christian perspective. For JB, it’s a simple matter of God being faithful to his Word.”

JB sums it up in a different way. As he often says, “It’s not about me.”

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