By Annette Mullaney
For City College alumnus and San Francisco native Bonta Hill, becoming the new host of the Warriors Pre/Postgame Live for NBC Sports Bay Area is “beyond a dream come true.”
The shows, which air before and after the network’s exclusive broadcast of Warriors games, are Hill’s first major move into television. He will continue to host “The Morning Roast with Bonta, Kate & Joe” on 95.7 The Game, his latest in a series of increasingly prime time radio slots.
The appointment “shows you how respected he is in this market,” said Matt Nahigian, program director at 95.7.
“This is a big deal – the fourth largest market, the Golden State Warriors,” said Daryle “Guru” Johnson, Hill’s former cohost at 95.7. “There weren’t enough words for me to express how proud I was.”
“I never envisioned doing the things I am,” Hill said. He’s always been a “sports geek,” known in high school for always carrying the sport page, though he didn’t consider it for a career.
Sports were the constant through a difficult upbringing that included foster care from ages 10 to 17. “Dad was in jail, Mom, she was dealing with drugs,” he said, adding that his mother has been sober for 20 years.
He first entered sports journalism at the age of 25, quitting a stable job as a supervisor at UPS to study at City College.
Four months into his first semester, Hill attended a community college journalism conference and won honorable mention for an on-the-spot game story, catching the eye of Journalism Department Chair Juan Gonzales. Gonzales offered Hill the sports editorship at The Guardsman.
“I have no idea what I’m doing,” was his thought at the time, followed by, “sure, why not?”
“He blossomed,” said Gonzales of Hill’s tenure as editor. “He had a knack for writing.” As the semester progressed, “with more writing, more assignments, he became better and better … We just kind of steered him in the right direction, gave him some training, and gave him opportunity. He took it and worked hard.”
“The Guardsman was a great platform for me to have a direction for what I wanted to do,” said Hill. “That paper really changed my life.”
Hill talked to coaches at City College, striking up relationships between Guardsman writers and the teams. “It’s always good when you get a writer who has a good comradery with the folks that he’s covering,” said Gonzales.
That amiability has served him well in his career. “He’s sincere. He’s the same Bonta on air that he is off air,” Johnson said of his former cohost.
“He connects with these players,” Nahigian said. “They know that they can trust him.”
While at City College, Hill also served as PA announcer for the basketball team, and covered high school sports for SanFranPreps and the San Francisco Examiner.
The hustle did not let up after transferring to San Francisco State. He interned at radio station KNBR, and co-hosted “Three Man Weave” on San Francisco State University’s KSFS Radio, his first foray into sports talk radio. Professor of Media Arts Jeff Jacoby said Hill exhibited all qualities necessary for success in this field: “Eagerness, enthusiasm, seriousness of purpose, leadership…those qualities define Bonta Hill.”
“He always took critique graciously and I would see that reflected in the show… by the time they were done they were doing a professional-level show,” Jacboy added.
After graduation Hill worked at KNBR as a board operator while working myriad side jobs to make ends meet. He checked IDs at the Bubble Lounge, drove Uber, sold flowers, and even was a pallbearer at a mortuary, all while writing and reporting for the Chronicle, the Examiner, Bleacher Report, and Yardbarker.
“Never say no to an opportunity,” said Hill. “Be willing to sacrifice your social life.” He added, “Get the byline no matter what, get the clips, stack ‘em up.”
Hill was working on the KNBR Giants postgame show when host Marty Lurie invited him to speak on air. “He was really fun to talk to,” Lurie said. “He really knew baseball but there wasn’t pretension … It was like talking to a friend.”
Within a few months, sportscaster Greg Papa called, looking for a partner for his midday show on 95.7. In 2019, Papa left the station, and Hill joined Johnson and Matt Steinmetz for “Bonta, Steiny & Guru” a midday show that lasted through October 2020, when Bonta moved to his current gig at the morning show.
“What really defines Bonta is his work ethic,” said Nahigian. “Not only is he speaking his mind, but he’s speaking from his knowledge of going to these games. He really does his homework and talks to a lot of people off the air.”
“When they hire him, they know they are getting someone who will be ready when the red light goes on, and that’s why he’s advanced so quickly,” said Lurie.
“Bonta’s a worker,” said Matt Steinmetz, adding “He loves it 24/7… [work] doesn’t really seem like it’s work for him.”
Embracing the grind forms the core of Hill’s advice to anyone looking to break into sports journalism. “Do it for the passion, do it because you love it. The money will come if you grind and work hard,” he said. “There’s a lot of people I’ve seen quit and they were more naturally talented than me.”
While he can point to plenty of sacrifices to get here, he admits that it often doesn’t feel like work now. “I get to do something I would every day with my boys, and I get to do it for a living… it doesn’t feel like a job, it feels like a blessing.”
As for the future, Hill laughed and said “Right now I’m good where I’m at. I take it day by day and have fun with it.” He hopes to stay in the Bay Area for the foreseeable future.
Hill’s first turn at hosting was Dec. 22, for a game against the Brooklyn Nets. That wasn’t the only recent debut in the Hill family, as he and his girlfriend welcomed a baby daughter earlier that month.