Akbar Gbajabiamila is host of NBC’s three-time Emmy Award-nominated hit competition series “American Ninja Warrior,” which begins its 11th season this summer. He is also host of “American Ninja Warrior Junior” on Universal Kids.
Gbajabiamila, who played five years in the NFL with the Raiders, Chargers and Dolphins, also host’s NFL Network’s “NFL Fantasy Live” and his inspiring new book, “Everyone Can Be a Ninja: Find Your Inner Warrior and Achieve Your Dreams” (Gallery Books), hits shelves in May. His first book draws inspiration from the fierce competitors on “American Ninja Warrior” and details his own path to success. Always the optimist, Gbajabiamila counsels readers on what it takes to overcome obstacles become a modern day “ninja.”
The Los Angeles native grew up in the Crenshaw district with his mother and father, both of whom were born and raised in Nigeria, and six siblings. Gbajabiamila is one of seven children of Nigerian immigrants. 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 Crenshaw High School during the dynasty era coached by Willie E. West. He also started playing football, pressured by coaches because his older brother was a powerhouse on the team.
When it came time for college he played football at San Diego State University, where he graduated with a degree in communication and new media studies before completing a certified entrepreneurship program at the Wharton School of Business in 2005.
While playing for the Chargers, Gbajabiamila contributed to KSWB, an NBC radio affiliate in San Diego, and co-hosted “Football Night in San Diego” from 2006-08. He went on to serve as an analyst for the Mountain Network and CBS Sports before joining the NFL Network in 2012.
The multi-hyphenate made his feature 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 selected by producer Mark Burnett to compete in challenges across the globe.
Elsewhere, Gbajabiamila appeared on NBC’s “The Night Shift” and hosted NBC’s 2017 “Red Nose Day Special” and “Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular.”
Gbajabiamila 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, Gbajabiamila 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 Los Angeles with their beloved dog.