A behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of ESPN star Jay Williams — from meals with NBA powerhouse agents to battles with Stephen A. Smith

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderBefore the pandemic shut down the world, Jay Williams gave an Insider reporter and photographer behind-the-scenes access to a day in his life.
  • Jay Williams has become one of ESPN’s strongest, most dignified voices during an unprecedented moment for sports.
  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down, Williams gave an Insider reporter and photographer behind-the-scenes access to a day in his life.
  • From early-morning dog walks and on-air battles with Stephen A. Smith to meals with NBA powerhouse agents and meetings with CEOS, check out what a day in Williams’ life was like.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.


Back in early March, Jay Williams met Insider’s reporter and photographer at 5:30 a.m. near his home in Brooklyn.

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderJay Williams (right) and Insider reporter Meredith Cash walk Williams’ dog, Denzel Washington.

He started his day by walking his dog, Denzel Washington, well before the sun rose over New York City.

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderJay Williams walks his dog, Denzel Washington.

Before he left for work, Williams brought Denzel Washington back to his apartment and said goodbye to his wife, Nikki Bonacorsi, and his 2-year-old daughter, Amelia.

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderJay Williams and his dog, Denzel Washington.

He ordered a car and headed across the Brooklyn Bridge towards Manhattan — and he was remarkably chipper for so early in the morning.

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderJay Williams.

And a few minutes later, we pulled up on ESPN’s studio in the South Street Seaport, and Williams led us into the building at Pier 17.

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderJay Williams arrives at the ESPN studio.

As we walked into ESPN’s office space, he exchanged friendly hellos with the security guard on duty.

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderJay Williams arrives at the ESPN studio.

After walking through the double glass doors, we found ourselves in the centre of the office’s main space. Williams walked past the desks of many of ESPN’s on-screen personalities before draping his coat over his desk chair.

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Then he walked into a glass-paned conference room where the “Get Up!” morning meeting was already underway.

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He sat at the head of the table between former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky and former New York Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum.

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderFrom left: Mike Tannenbaum, Jay Williams, and Dan Orlovsky.

The table was full of ESPN’s leading voices, including a still-sleepy Mike Greenberg.

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderMike Greenberg (right) tries to wake up for an ESPN morning meeting.

Williams was still tired, too.

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Greenberg facilitated a round-table discussion with Williams, Orlovsky, Tannenbaum, “Get Up!” co-anchor Laura Rutledge, NBA veteran Kendrick Perkins, and others.

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They went over the day’s talking points…

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… while Williams took diligent notes.

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As they began debating, Greeny reminded everyone to “save it for the show.”

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But Williams still got some good points in.

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Williams and Perkins stayed behind after the meeting adjourned for a one-on-one discussion.

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Once they finished, Williams headed to his desk to further prepare for the show.

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He did some research online.

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And took some time to chat more with his colleagues.

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Coffee was a must.

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And then everyone headed to set.

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Everyone got situated around the desk to kick off the show.

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And the crew checked all of the cameras.

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And soon, they were live.

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Williams joined Greeny for every segment about the NBA.

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And the duo later stepped away from the desk for a trivia segment.

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When he wasn’t in front of the cameras, he and Perkins stepped aside to get makeup touch-ups and take a breather.

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They also prepared for upcoming segments.

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So that they were ready to go at it once they were on air.

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“Zion’s a new breed,” Williams told Insider. “Everybody has the things that they focus on, and it’s easy to become very myopic. But every morning, I’m aware of how people pitch him.”

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Towards the end of the hour, the one and only Stephen A. Smith joined Williams, Perkins, and Greeny behind the desk.

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“I like challenging Stephen A. because I don’t feel like a lot of people challenge him, and I do feel extremely confident in my knowledge,” Williams said.

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Before Williams wrapped “Get Up!,” the “First Take” producers tapped Williams for a segment during the 10 o’clock hour.

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So after a brief break, he joined Smith, Max Kellerman, and Molly Qerim in the facility’s other studio.

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No one told him in advance what topic he’d be debating with Stephen A. and Max.

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But it wasn’t too surprising when it turned out to be a conversation about Kevin Durant and his longtime business partner, Rich Kleiman.

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Williams has a close personal and professional relationship with Durant and Kleiman thanks to his involvement with Thirty Five Ventures and “The Boardroom.”

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In fact, once Williams was done on set, he set off for a meeting with Kleiman across town.

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They met at Soho House New York, a private members’ club with locations across the world.

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Though photography was not permitted inside the space, we sat in on their meeting.

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Kleiman and Williams discussed “The Boardroom,” preparing for this year’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and the looming pandemic over breakfast.

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An hour later, they parted ways, and Williams was off to his next meeting with yet another power-player in the sports world.

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It was midday when we arrived at Monarch Business and Wealth Management, a family office providing business direction and services to celebrities and affluent individuals.

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Williams had recently signed on with the company as a client and had agreed to meet with Monarch’s leadership about a potential sponsorship opportunity.

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He caught up on emails and phone calls before the meeting.

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Monarch CEO Barry Klarberg — who is also an owner of both the New York Yankees and Major League Soccer’s New York City FC — joined us.

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“It’s rare you run into somebody like this with this type of talent, with the history that he went through,” Klarberg said of Williams. “He’s different. He’s smart. He gets it.”

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We then followed the duo to a networking meeting at the Barbarian headquarters, where we met Barbarian CEO Steven Moy and Yext Senior Director of Strategic Alliances Nikki Bonacorsi.

Courtesy of the Barbarian Group

Bonacorsi — who is married to Williams — said she “saw so much opportunity” in Williams from the moment she met her husband.

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“She’s my why,” Williams said of his wife.

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Once he wrapped up his business meetings for the day, Williams brought us to The Cabin NYC, his not-so-secret hideaway in Alphabet City.

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The Cabin NYC


He owns and operates the rustic bar-restaurant in the East Village with two of his best friends.

Crystal Cox/Business InsiderFrom left: Dresden ‘Dre’ Baluyot, Joey Aponte, and Jay Williams.

A long, fully-stocked bar lines the right side of the restaurant.

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Bright blue upholstered seating paired with tables made from trees they cut down themselves sit flush against the opposite wall.

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There’s a framed painting of Tupac Shakur as a fox…

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… and another of The Notorious B.I.G. as a grizzly bear hanging on the walls.

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And there were seasonal decorations everywhere.

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Williams, Baluyot, and Aponte reminisced about their glory days in New Jersey while telling me about the origins of The Cabin.

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But as afternoon turned to evening, we said our goodbyes so Williams could head back to Brooklyn to bathe his daughter and put her to sleep.

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Now check out why Jay Williams is uniquely prepared to host his new ESPN show — “my whole life has led me to this moment”:

Crystal Cox/Business Insider

Jay Williams has become one of ESPN’s strongest, most dignified voices during an unprecedented moment for sports: ‘My whole life has led me to this moment’

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