John "LaJethro Jenkins" Nichols. John “LaJethro Jenkins” Nichols. (Photo supplied by Wave Sports + Entertainment.)

The Wave Sports+Entertainment NBA show Outta Pocket is coming back for a third season, and it’s kicking off in a big way. On Tuesday during the Golden State Warriors-Los Angeles Lakers game (which begins at 10 p.m. ET on TNT), Outta Pocket hosts John ‘LaJethro Jenkins’ Nichols, Josiah Johnson, and Zach Schwartz will be joined by former NBA player Nick Young and current Clippers’ guard Terance Mann for the first-ever Outta Pocket Live Watch Party.

That watch party, presented by Hulu+Live TV, will air on WSE’s “Buckets” YouTube channel. Outta Pocket usually drops episodes there each Friday, and this season, those episodes will also be available on Apple, Spotify, and other major podcast platforms. Ahead of this watch party and the S3 podcast premiere, Nichols (seen at top) spoke to AA on a variety of fronts, including how he wound up with the “LaJethro Nichols” name for his basketball content.

“My first name on social media was NicholsAccomplished, but that was too many letters,” Nichols said. “It ended up being NicholsAccomp, and nobody knew what that was. One day, I was tweeting out ‘LaMalcolm X, LaMartin Luther King,’ all this goofy stuff. It was like 2014 Twitter, it was a different world at the time. I was just laughing, I was probably very high, I was like ‘I want to change my name.’ I’m very country and I’m Black, I’m from St. Louis and I grew up in the South. I thought Jethro was my country side, and then I put in LaJethro, I’d never heard of it before, and it’s ridiculous, and I thought it was funny. And then Jenkins was the Blackest [surname] I could think of. So LaJethro Jenkins.”

Before joining WSE, Nichols’ media work included time as the editorial director at All Def Digital and time as the head of NBA social platforms at Yahoo Sports. He also co-hosts the Jenkins and Jonez podcast on Colin Cowherd‘s The Volume. Nichols said WSE has been a great fit for him for the creative freedom they provide.

“One thing I love about Wave is the freedom. They trusted me. I felt like there was a bunch of red tape at Yahoo. All Def was a great experience, but I wasn’t really talent, I was editorial director, so I was creating stuff for other people. Yahoo, there was a bunch of red tape because it’s a larger company.”

“…The people at Wave, they get it, they just get it. They understand content, they understand the space that we’re in, and I can tell them an idea, and they get it immediately. With Outta Pocket, we had done a version of that at Yahoo with Josiah and Zach, and they were doing a version of that at Wave after they left Yahoo, and this was the iteration we always wanted to do. We always had to kind of move within a particular way at Yahoo. At Wave, we can be our true selves, and they trust us to be our true selves. It’s very beneficial, and much more successful. I love that.”

Nichols said WSE has been supportive on even fronts like set design.

“They’ve also invested in us. Even little things like the set, I was like ‘I want it to look this way.’ There was an initial idea, and I talked to Mack [Sovereign], who’s the EVP of Content, I have no business talking to the EVP of Content, you know what I’m saying? And I’m talking him up with my idea and he’s like ‘Do it.'”

“And he just gave me the go-ahead, trusting me. And they love what it looks like now, how it turned out, but they trusted me and empowered me to do that. So I just love the trust and the freedom that we get to create the content that we think will be successful, and it’s worked out so far.”

As for Outta Pocket itself, Nichols said it works because of the pre-existing relationships between the hosts, similar to WSE’s recent New Heights with Travis and Jason Kelce.

New Heights, our new show, the chemistry is great because they’re brothers, they talk off-camera, they’re friends. Similarly, me, Zach and Josiah were having these conversations prior to ever having a show. Me and Zach would talk a lot because we were working together a lot, Josiah would come around and we’d talk to him. So when we were testing the initial iteration, we tested a bunch of people, and Josiah was by far the best for the dynamic we want, letting people feel like a fly on the wall hearing your homies have a real basketball conversation.”

“And the same stuff we talk about on Outta Pocket, we talk about off-camera; you are getting our true selves. And that’s what I feel is more relatable content, when you’re your true self and people can relate to you. …They’re my actual friends, people I have these actual conversations with, and we can be on camera and be ourselves, and that makes for the best possible content.”

Nichols said he first connected with Johnson and Schwartz on Twitter, and Twitter remains a key part of how they talk about the NBA.

“There are a lot of content creators who came from like the Hypebeast message boards. There’s a group of content creators that I loved and watched growing up, and that’s where they came from. And they always go back and talk about those times and how they all met.”

“NBA Twitter is how we all connected; I have a podcast outside of this that started with me talking with people on Twitter about basketball. [Twitter] is where we all connected, and that’s where we built our following. A lot of this is the foundation for a lot of our success.”

He said he thinks the #NBATwitter discussion also drives wider NBA content.

“Also, when it comes to what people are talking about online, even outside of Twitter, you look on ESPN, you look on other platforms, you see those conversations that began on NBA Twitter. For the basketball content that I watched and have participated in and watch currently, that’s where it all derives from. People will pick up on it and talk about it further. It’s also become, like, instead of websites, you log on and go to Twitter to find out what’s happening in real time. And we all just started there and built our relationship through there, and it’s been integral to our success.”

As for Nichols’ own history with the game, he said he started by watching college basketball when he was young, then quickly got into the pros, drawn by the beauty of the game at both levels.

“My stepdad, he grew up around North Carolina, so the Duke-North Carolina rivalry was huge. So I think ’92 was when I first started watching basketball, and it was Bobby Hurley and his tenacity. [laughs] Ugh, it’s such a grit-and-grind take. But it made me really fall in love with the game.”

“And as I was falling in love with basketball, I started watching as much basketball as possible. And I played for multiple years, and I’m just in love with the beauty of the game. To me, basketball is art.”

“I’m not the biggest fan of most things Kyrie [Irving] says, but he talks about himself as being an artist, and I agree. Analytics are important, and I’m a nerd, I have a finance degree, so I do love the numbers, but I fell in love with the game because it’s art.”

Nichols said he feels incredibly lucky to have gotten to a place where he can talk about basketball as a job.

“My relationship with the NBA is just me being a fan for a long time, and talking about and expressing that online, and building a platform due to that. That’s how I express my fandom. And now I get to cover it. I’m very lucky. And I think without Twitter, this doesn’t exist, there’s no LaJethro Jenkins, and I’m probably working at Edward Jones or something, wearing a shirt and tie every day. And my relationship with the NBA, as far as people know, it started on Twitter, but for me, it’s been something that I’ve watched since I was 10, and that I loved.”

He said his mom even called that that might happen for him.

“My mom, when we watched it, I would commentate, and I would say things before the commentators said it, like weird stuff like ‘That’s the way to break a press, the ball never touched the ground,’ and then the commentator would say that, and she’d be like ‘You might do something with this some day.’ I don’t think we thought Twitter or YouTube, that didn’t even exist at that time, but I’ve loved basketball for the vast majority of my life.”

Outta Pocket has featured a lot of NBA guests past and present, including Young and Mann for this upcoming watch party. Nichols said talking to NBA players has been an incredible experience for him, especially when it comes to getting their perspectives on the game.

“What’s really cool is I always talk about those people who I want to be around and just shut the f*** up and let them talk, you know what I mean? And the people who talk about basketball players like they’re not savants, like they’re not absolutely brilliant when it comes to this game, like they don’t understand this game like a doctor understands the body… I learn so much talking to these players. And we chop it up, we laugh, because we want to make it fun and that’s our natural disposition.

He said he’s particularly enjoyed speaking to defensive players like Iman Shumpert.

“Iman’s a defensive player, and I’ve learned throughout my years of basketball that defensive players study the game in a particular way. If you’re not going to go out and be the guy who just gets some buckets, you have to understand the game, you have to find other ways to fit in.”

“If you’re a defensive player, you study all the greats because you have to guard them. And these guys are gods, they’ll embarrass you if you don’t come fully prepared, these offensive greats. So talking to Iman, he has so much knowledge, because he studied all the greats, he had to guard them every night. He was the guy.”

“He’s a great personality, fun guy, funny as hell. But he’s also extremely smart, and his basketball IQ is off the chart.”

Nichols said those conversations have been a tremendous opportunity for the Outta Pocket hosts.

“And for us to sit down with these players and talk to them about this sport that I’ve loved since I was a kid, I’m taking notes in my head talking to these guys. And the best part of that is they’re normal humans who love what they do. And honestly, I’ll talk to anybody who has a passion about what they’re doing. I’m extremely curious and interested in a lot of different things.”

“And these guys played at the top level and talk about the game the way they do, and I get to ask them questions? I don’t take that lightly. It’s a privilege; I’m grateful for that, and I enjoy the hell out of it.”

As for those who haven’t yet checked out Outta Pocket, Nichols said he thinks it’s worthwhile because it combines basketball insight with the hosts’ chemistry and love of fun.

“I think it’s the most relatable basketball show on the planet, honestly. I don’t think there is a show that’s as relatable. And Josiah played at UCLA, he understands the game incredibly. Zach was a manager at ASU, so he understands the game incredibly as well. I played at a high level and I’ve watched basketball for 30 years. We understand the game, but we don’t take it too seriously. We prioritize fun, but we also have great knowledge. …We have great guests, we have a lot of fun, and we love the game.”

The Outta Pocket watch party takes place Tuesday night on the Buckets YouTube channel./em>

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.