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Friday, July 12, 2024

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Jon Kabongo From Hoops to Hip-Hop.

By Jasmin Mombourquette instagram: @jazmynlo

You know the ex you can’t seem to move on from?
The love of your life, the relationship that ended in severe heartbreak.
The one that your friends and family always bring up.
What happened to so and so?
Yeah, that’s exactly how Jonathan Kabongo feels about basketball.
The thing he loved most, that he lost, and can’t seem to get everyone to stop asking him about.
Like the rest of us, he has no choice but to move on.
So respectfully, stop asking him about her, I mean basketball.

Jon Kabongo Photo Credit: @ry.ones & @jaysneu

Jon is a Toronto native who grew up in a sports-loving family. All of his siblings played basketball and he followed in their footsteps. As a child, Jonathan developed a natural passion for the game. He would practice outside on the playground courts after school and on the weekends when Eastview Community Centre was closed. In the seventh grade, the expectations and comparisons of his older brother Myck began to set in. With two of his siblings already playing at the university level, sister Vanessa in Delaware and brother Myck in Texas, the expectation back home became both eminent and inevitable. Jon had to make it to the league. Everyone back home already viewed him as a first-round draft pick without knowing what Jon was really going through.

At the age of fifteen, Jonathan attended Huntington Prep in West Virginia and during his time there he suffered a major back injury in 2016. This was the first real hit to his game, he was in rehab and benched for 10 months. Reality began to set in as the pain remained and the reality of his ability to continue playing the game would be limited moving forward. While his body didn’t feel right, Jon kept this to himself. The following year, in November he signed with Virginia Tech under the notion that the coaching staff could get him healthy. The number one rule: DO NOT TOUCH THE BALL for six weeks. The pain improved and Jon felt hopeful, until his following career-ending injury in February 2019. Jonathan tore his hip and was unaware until June. In August he underwent surgery and by December his die-hard, long-term relationship with basketball came to an end.

Jon Kabongo Photo Credit: @amandaleecoffey

While he wasn’t playing basketball anymore, he remained in Virginia to finish his degree. Sitting in the shadow of his hopes, watching his teammates continue the dream he went there for. Unable to talk about his heartbreak under the direction of the institution paired with the disappointment of losing the game, depression set in. Roaming around the Virginia Tech campus – away from home, feeling stuck and isolated, Jon picked up his pen and started writing like he secretly did outside of the gym all of his life. In his song “Home Affairs” on the album How Much Time You Got, Jon describes the challenges he faced being stuck on campus while dealing with his emotions and everything else going on back home – his mother battling cancer. From December until the announcement in May, Jonathan marinated in his feelings. Absorbing what could have been and wondering what could be. He began to flirt with the idea of writing and teaching music as a career move. He finished his degree in Creative Writing and started grad school. While an accomplishment, continuing his academic career was not going to fill the void that basketball once held in his heart and going back home to Toronto after being away for eight years, felt unnatural. Toronto became a ghost with baggage that Jon wasn’t ready to face yet.

He began looking for ways to stay away. Interviewing for Digital Marketing positions in the NBA organization, teaching classes, taking classes, but always writing and making music. Nothing was working, no amount of ink on a page or beat vibrations out of a speaker connected with how he felt. He missed home and needed to replicate the semblance of Toronto without being there. He looked within himself and tried to remember who he is and where he is from. The only way for him to do that was to swallow his pride and face the music. Like every Torontonian, seeing the CN tower, no matter how far away – you begin to feel safe and feel at home. After a month of being back in the city, the purpose that he lost after losing the game resurfaced.


During his time back home, Jon released a vulnerable three-song EP titled “Here To Heal” – an ode to his mother in which he shares his mother’s struggle with cancer. He includes heart-melting voiceovers of his conversations with his mom about what she’s going through. The EP while emotional, is just one example of the range and complexity that Jon Kabongo exudes as an artist, and an individual.

Jonathan Kabongo is currently a student at The Remix Project, undergoing a nine-month program built to support and train youth 25 and under who are pursuing careers in the arts and entertainment industry. The opportunity has allowed and encouraged Jon to harness his skills and create a project – City News At 6, dropping September 1st, that tells his story better than I ever could.

Jon Kabongo Photo Credit: @mattmarquee

From a basketball star on the rise to a solidified writer. We often see injured basketball players or those who simply did not make it to the league, pick up a mic without the ability to hold it down. Jon held down the court and is now holding down the stage. This is Jon Kabongo, the artist. So respectfully, let’s leave his ex Spalding, in the past and tap into his Spotify to appreciate the come-up.

IG: Jon.kabongo | Spotify: Jon Kabongo


City-news-at-6-jon-kabongo
City-news-at-6-jon-kabongo Album cover – @rahmasvision

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