Your nickname says a lot about you.
Tim Duncan is “The Big Fundamental”—a perfect representation of his understated, efficient style. Karl Malone is “The Mailman”—no matter the day, no matter the opponent, he would deliver. Robert Traylor was “Tractor” Traylor, a nickname that fit the 6-foot-8, 300-pound mammoth of a human being like a glove. Aquille Carr is known as “The Crime Stopper.” Legend has it that the crime rate in his hometown of Baltimore would drop during his games at Patterson High School because everyone came to watch.
Kyran Bowman is “The First 48.”
An ode to the homicide investigation documentary series of the same name, it was given to the Boston College freshman point guard by former coach Kendrick Williams. The reasoning behind the nickname is quite simple—Bowman has a knack for posterizing helpless defenders with mesmerizing dunks.
It’s a good idea to stay out of Bowman’s way on a drive toward the rim. Honestly, there’s no way to win—Bowman can pull up from distance and go around an interior defender with crafty inside finishing, too.
But if you’re in the way, he’ll go through you. Without hesitation, without doubt, without fear, Bowman is wired to attack. The nickname, then, fits him well. Everybody knows it.
“I had teachers who would call me ‘The First 48,’” Bowman said. “Our town is so small, and everybody knows each other. So when I go back home, everybody will say, ‘What’s up, First 48?’ It’s a cool experience for me.”
That was the most important part of Bowman’s coronation—no nickname is truly official unless the public likes it and adopts it. The tight-knit community in Bowman’s hometown of Havelock, N.C., has rallied around him and his tenacious identity on the court. His mother, Lauretha Prichard, had a T-shirt made depicting “before” and “after” images from one of Bowman’s most vicious dunks.
Even the television show itself is supportive of the nickname. Once producers heard about Bowman’s story, they sent him a gift package that included a T-shirt, water bottle, and other small gifts. They penned a letter, congratulating him on all his success and wishing him more in the future.
They believed in the Carolina kid who sported a nickname fit for a star. Many others have, too. Now Bowman is out to prove the believers that they supported a worthy cause—and that the doubters missed out on the investment of a lifetime.
Bowman is a natural athlete—he’s played football and basketball since he was young. In fact, a lot of the skills he has on the basketball court come from things he’s learned on the gridiron.
Football made Bowman comfortable with physical play. He can absorb contact in the lane, just as he did as a wide receiver in high school, shaking off defensive backs on fly routes. He fights through screens at the top of the key like he fights through blocks on the line of scrimmage. His quick instincts on the hardwood can be attributed to his ability to jump routes as a cornerback.
Bowman has uncles and cousins, like New York Jets linebacker Bruce Carter, who have played at the highest levels of their respective sports. He fondly remembers evenings spent with his brothers playing in the driveway until neighbors pleaded with the children to call it a night.
Only one sport captured his heart from the first time he picked it up, though.
“Basketball is his love,” Prichard said. “He’s good at football, too—he could have gone to college for both sports. But his love is basketball. You can just see it when he’s out there playing.”
It’s true that Bowman could have played both football and basketball at the college level—before he committed to BC, Bowman signed on to play football at the University of North Carolina (with the expectation that he would join the basketball team in the second semester).
Things changed, however, before he ever arrived at Chapel Hill. Bowman started questioning his decision to play football.
“Football was just something I played to get noticed, since my high school team won a lot of state championships and our basketball team wasn’t as good,” Bowman said. “I went with my heart in choosing to play basketball.”
When Bowman decided to open up his recruitment again, BC came into the picture almost immediately. Unlike other schools that were after him—including the University of Alabama, which extended him a football scholarship after he committed for basketball—BC was most forthcoming and honest. Bowman listed things that he liked about BC, and they seem like things that people do out of common courtesy—showing up on the day you say you will, staying to chat for a few minutes after games—but colleges treat potential recruits worse than you’d think.
“I wanted to be somebody’s ‘A’ choice, not their ‘B’ choice,” Bowman said. “And that was definitely the case here.”
“I was most interested in BC because BC was most interested in him,” Prichard added. “It was always the head coach [Jim Christian] that came, not just the assistant [Scott Spinelli], when they visited. I could tell they really wanted my child.”
Bowman’s heart has guided him through more than just the decision concerning which sport to play or which school to attend. His heart is his beacon, his compass, his North Star. When it seems like everything is collapsing around him, Bowman has relied on his heart.
He needed his heart when his father died. Bowman was only 8 years old, far younger than a child burying his father should be. His father was in Arizona at the time, mistaken for the wrong man and beaten to the brink of death. He went to the hospital and died the next day. Bowman and his family found out shortly thereafter, and immediately left to go to his funeral. To this day, Bowman doesn’t like to talk about it much.
He needed his heart when his brother, Michael, lost his college scholarship. The Bowmans committed to play collegiate football on the same day—Kyran to North Carolina, Michael to South Carolina. But Michael got into some trouble shortly after his commitment, so South Carolina pulled his offer. Though he eventually locked up another offer from local junior college Winston-Salem State University, Michael recently violated parole.
“He gets out of jail on January 14,” Bowman said. “He’s looking for a job, but it’ll be tough for him to find one because of his record. He’s my blood brother, and we’ve been through a lot of the same stuff.”
He needed his heart when his grandmother died, too. It was his birthday last year, a day that was supposed to be a celebratory occasion. He had just received a personal invite from the University of Oregon to attend a camp in Eugene. Because of the circumstances, he couldn’t attend. Bowman said that was one of the biggest factors that led him to decommit from UNC and play basketball only.
But through it all, Bowman persevered. He made it through high school. He made it out of Havelock and he made it to BC. He’s made it through most of his first semester of college. For that, he has his heart to thank.
Oh, and also Adele.
Basketball locker rooms are almost always bumping the latest rap music—the songs that get everybody pumped up and ready to get work done. The thumping bass lines, the high-octane beats, the unforgettable flows are as closely tied to athletics as peanut butter is to jelly. In many respects, rap culture and basketball culture are nearly identical.
Bowman will listen to that stuff, and he doesn’t necessarily mind it. A self-proclaimed fan of all genres of music, it’s clear that there isn’t much that bothers him. But if he had his way, Bowman would get his teammates listening to a bit of a different playlist. A little bit more Nina Simone, for one. Maybe some of Akon’s older songs. And definitely more of the modern British pop singer’s powerful ballads.
“Adele is my go-to pregame music,” Bowman said. “Favorite song is ‘Someone Like You.’ It puts me in my own zone before a game. It takes everything off my mind. When I listen to songs like that, it just puts me in my own place.”
It’s an unexpected wrinkle in Bowman’s story that you would never gather from looking at him, but there’s more to him than meets the eye. He likes to smile, he likes to joke, and he loves Adele. Her music takes stress off him, so he can focus on taking stress off of those he cares about.
“I’m just trying to make sure my mom isn’t stressed about stuff, because she worries a lot,” Bowman said. “I want to make sure that my nieces and nephews have food to eat and clothes to wear. I want to make sure they have a lot of the stuff that I didn’t have.”
When electricity is added to an atom, the electrons within that atom are boosted from a ground state—in which they are stable and have little energy—to an excited state.
BC basketball could use a boost like that. Last year’s squad, which limped to a 7-25 record with zero conference wins, played slow and with little energy. Offensive possessions ended with poor looks from deep behind the 3-point line, and defensive stands would conclude feebly with lightly-contested baskets.
In the offseason, the Eagles needed an electric shock. They needed to find someone who would inspire the program, who would push his teammates farther than they’ve been pushed before.
They found their guy, because Bowman has the energy to elevate BC.
Now, it might not be immediate. Individually, his stats might not jump out to the average fan. It’s not even a guarantee that Bowman will start most games this season.
But Bowman’s attitude—his demeanor, his determination, his undying passion for the game—rubs off on people. Bowman pushes people to dive after the loose ball that’s slowly rotating toward the sideline, or take a few extra free throws after practice ends, or sacrifice the body to get a charging call on the defensive end.
Shortly after he committed to BC, Havelock High School head coach Daniel Griffee told BCEagles.com that Bowman was one of the most gifted players he has coached in his career, speaking incredibly highly of his recent graduate.
“Kyran Bowman is the most explosive, athletic, savvy, and toughest player I have ever coached,” Griffee said. “He will not be outworked or outplayed. He is a team-first player whose leadership off the floor carries over into more W’s for the team.”
Bowman wants it so bad that those around him have no choice but to match his intensity level. He elevates not only his own game, but the game of all those around him.
“There’s a tear shed every once in a while just knowing that he’s made it,” Prichard said. “Throughout his life, Kyran has been trying to lift everyone’s burden—putting it on himself to make it easier for everyone else. He’s a special kid, and it’s wonderful to see him moving further in his life.”
He’s fought his whole life, for more than just basketball, and now he’s here. Bowman carries a family name, a little town by the beach, a legacy on his broad shoulders.
He won’t drop them.