As one of the most irreverent television personalities in sports and with an unparalleled ability to connect with viewers across the county, NFL star, sports commentator, and entertainment personality Akbar Gbajabiamila hosts NBC's Emmy® nominated, heart-racing obstacle course competition series American Ninja Warrior. He also hosts USA Network's spinoff series, American Ninja Warrior: Ninja Vs. Ninja. The show follows competitors as they tackle a series of challenging obstacle courses in both city qualifying and city finals rounds across the country. Gbajabiamila also currently hosts NFL Networks' highest rated show, NFL Fantasy Live.
The American Ninja Warrior host recently made headlines being parodied on Saturday Night Live by Drake, as well as hailed in the media as a hero for chasing down a hit-and-run suspect who sideswiped a Los Angeles motorcycle cop.
The L.A. native grew up in the Crenshaw district with his mother, father -- both of whom were born and raised in Nigeria -- and six siblings. His first name means “great” in Arabic and his last name means “big man come save me,” which derives from his paternal great-great-grandfather -- an impressive man who stood 7-feet tall and was the moderator in the village in which he lived.
Born to be an athlete, his first passion was playing basketball. He was part of the basketball team at his alma mater, Crenshaw High School, during the dynasty era coached by none other than Willie E. West. He made the junior varsity team his first year, which was unheard of at the time, and by his second year, was pulled up to varsity just in time to play in the Nike Extravaganza tournament. It was with hesitation at the end of that year that he started playing football, pressured by coaches because his older brother was a powerhouse on the team and yearned for an equally superb talent of another Gbajabiamila.
By his senior year, he received scholarship offers from five top colleges: Oregon, University of California at Berkley, San Diego State, Fresno State, and Colorado State. He opted for San Diego State, choosing the same school as his older brother. Akbar received his degree in communications and new media studies because deep down he always had the desire to be a broadcaster. He admired notables in the field like Jim Hill and aspired to be just like them. The Southern California native played five years in the NFL as a linebacker and defensive end with the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, and Miami Dolphins before retiring in 2008.
Throughout his NFL career, Gbajabiamila had an interest in broadcasting, and in 2005 he was selected as one of the NFL’s first athletes to attend their Broadcast Boot Camp, an intense workshop aimed at training athletes for potential careers in broadcasting and journalism. While playing for the Chargers, Akbar contributed to KSWB, an NBC radio affiliate in San Diego, and co-hosted “Football Night in San Diego” from 2006 to 2008. He went on to serve as an analyst for the Mtn. Network and CBS Sports, before joining the NFL Network in 2012.
The multihyphenate made his acting debut in the 2015 short film The Sac Fly, and previously co-starred in a Funny or Die skit “Internet Cops with Nnamdi Asomugha.” He was also a fan-favorite on the 2009 ABC adventure series Expedition Impossible, where he was hand-selected by producer Mark Burnett to compete in challenges across the globe. More recently, Akbar made his debut on NBC’s The Night Shift, as well as hosted NBC’s 2017 Red Nose Day Special and Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular.
Akbar has a long history of volunteering and social consciousness. He currently serves as a board member for the Asomugha Foundation, an organization aimed at creating better educational opportunities for impoverished communities. He also serves on the board of the Michael J Fox Foundation. As a collegiate undergrad, Akbar joined Athletes for Education, a youth education program where he was able to promote financial literacy for youth in the San Diego community.
He and his wife along with their four children currently reside in Redondo Beach with their beloved dog.