He’s Famous to many, but not the masses. Will the NBA Celebrity Game change that for Los?

Famous Los turned 29 on Jan. 23, became a father to a baby boy on Feb. 3, dropped a new rap singer Thursday and plays in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game Friday in Charlotte.
Famous Los turned 29 on Jan. 23, became a father to a baby boy on Feb. 3, dropped a new rap singer Thursday and plays in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game Friday in Charlotte. Courtesy of Famous Los

His is one of several names on the 2019 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game roster that won’t ring a bell for a general audience.

But Famous Los — née Carlos Sanford, a 29-year-old Durham native — intends to make sure that after Friday’s final buzzer sounds at the exhibition at Bojangles’ Coliseum, fans will be talking more about him than they will be about more-recognizable teammates like Steve Smith, Chris Daughtry and Dr. Oz.

“I just gotta get buckets, man,” Los says. “I wanna get buckets, man. I really wanna cross somebody so bad that my IG goes nuts.”

In other words, expect to see Los try to juke the person guarding him by bouncing the ball through their legs and then taking it to the hoop, the way you can see him doing in multiple videos he’s posted for the enjoyment of his 1.2 million Instagram followers.

We know what you might be thinking right now: Wait a second — who is this guy? And what exactly is the guy with “Famous” in his name famous for doing? We’re here to help. Here are five things worth knowing about Los.

1. Los has been making comedy videos since he was in his early 20s, but found his niche after he started filming himself providing wisecrack-filled commentary about random moments in televised basketball games while living with his pal P.J. Hairston in Charlotte in late 2014. While Hairston was out doing his job as a reserve for the NBA’s Hornets, Los would sit on his couch and crank out these videos — and people were laughing at them, and sharing them. It snowballed. Within a year, he had 200,000 followers. In 2016, he signed a deal with New York-based Whistle.

“We like to position him as the funny sports analyst,” says his manager, Whistle’s Josh Millan. “So he’s not gonna be on ESPN with a suit and tie, like your standard analyst. He does it in a very authentic way ... where he’s basically commenting on the funnier side of basketball, and he likes to talk about different moves that players do. So it’s something that you’re not getting on TV.” Los has since moved off the couch — one time, he was making a video and people were being too loud in the living room, so he took it to the bathroom. That’s almost exclusively where he does them now. He also has moved across the country, to Redondo Beach, Calif.

2. When he comments on basketball, although he’s being a goofball, he’s also speaking from experience. A star guard at Riverside High School in Durham, Los averaged 25 points per game as a senior and once scored 40 of his team’s 64 points in a loss to Raleigh’s Wakefield High. But, he says, “my grades weren’t really good, so I didn’t really get to go to the schools that I could have went to.” Instead, he started at Division II Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn., where he struggled, then later transferred to Union College in Barbourville, Ky., where he flourished. His senior year, he led the team in steals and once sank five threes on his way to 27 points. He was considering making a run at a career overseas after college, but gave that up after a knee surgery that following his third dislocation of it.

3. He’s developed a following among the famous. While he might not ever be a household name for his videos, Los’ work has gone so viral that it’s caught the attention of some of the NBA stars he calls out in his clips. His growing fan base includes six-time NBA All-Stars Kyrie Irving (who has been known to reach out to Los to try to get him to make videos about plays he was involved with) and Steph Curry (who Facetimed Los after the Golden State Warriors won Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals to thank him for the many videos he’s based on Curry highlights).

4. He’s branching out. Perhaps surprisingly, he’s not interested in a more-traditional career. “I hate standup comedy,” Los says. But last fall, he dropped a rap album titled “F.A.M.E. Not Famous” on Spotify, and is hoping his music career blows up. “I’m trying to get the same attention for music, same as I get for basketball. So basically I’m starting from the bottom again. But I like it.”

5. He very well might be on the top of the heap at Friday night’s Celebrity Game, in terms of skill level. If you don’t want to take his word for it, or our word for it, or the (recent, not ancient) clips he’s posted of him driving through a defender by bouncing the ball between that defender’s legs, consider this: One sports book has him down as the odds-on favorite to be named MVP of the Celebrity Game — which also includes former NBA player Ray Allen, former NFL star Steve Smith (known to be a pretty good hoops player himself) and rapper Quavo (MVP of the 2018 game). Just how good does Los think he is? “Come on, man,” he says. “I’m supposed to be right beside Steph, to be for real.” That’s another one of his jokes, of course. The reality? “I could be in the NBA and be the 15th man on the bench — I’m not gonna be LeBron or KD. So I can go to the NBA and be the 15th man on the bench, or I can be the one Famous Los in the world. I’d rather be me.”

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How to watch

The 2019 NBA Celebrity All-Star Game will air exclusively on ESPN and the ESPN App at 7 p.m. Friday from Bojangles’ Coliseum in Charlotte.

Théoden Janes has spent 12 years covering entertainment and pop culture for the Observer. He also thrives on telling emotive long-form stories about extraordinary Charlotteans and — as a veteran of 20-plus marathons and two Ironman triathlons — occasionally writes about endurance and other sports.