The fascinating story of Aron Yohannes
BY BIKAR MICHAEL STAFF WRITER
Aron Yohannes, an Eritrean immigrant, made a name for himself in the sports industry starting from the bottom.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Yohannes was raised as the youngest of seven children. In the 1980s, his parents immigrated to Milwaukee, an area that’s seen plenty of growth in the Eritrean and Ethiopian communities since his youth.
Entering high school, Yohannes decided that he wanted to pursue sports writing. “I was lucky I knew in high school what I wanted to do,” he said. “I knew I wanted to write about sports.”
Yohannes enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha to major in Communication. His studies taught him some of the concepts of life, such as identity, knowledge and social justice.
Even though he did not study journalism, Yohannes earned plenty of sports internships and media experience. He interned with a Milwaukee ESPN radio affiliate, two television stations and the national sports website Sporting News. Yohannes made radio appearances which were broadcast on ESPN and NBC. He gained the most credibility, however, covering the Milwaukee Bucks beat for SB Nation, launching his brand and network to the forefront.
Yohannes covered the Bucks full time, balancing school during the day with going to games at night. Yohannes saw it all, from Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rookie year in 2013 to the Bucks’ surprising playoff run in 2015, and most notably Kobe Bryant’s last game versus Milwaukee in 2016.
Yohannes enjoyed his time with the Bucks, including two standout events. The first was Milwaukee’s first-round playoff game against the Chicago Bulls in 2015. This was the first time he covered a game on the road, and the sight of the away locker room felt different. Chicago went on to defeat Milwaukee in the series, but Yohannes described the experience as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Yohannes also had the honor of covering Kobe Bryant’s last game in Milwaukee in 2016. It was a surreal experience, considering how Yohannes looked up to Bryant.
“That whole day felt like a movie to me,” he said. “Every single time something new kept happening during the night, I couldn’t process that it was really happening.”
Yohannes mentioned how the game’s magnitude saw many reporters that didn’t regularly cover Bucks’ games in attendance. Bryant’s last dance in Milwaukee captivated everyone.
During the postgame press conference, Yohannes asked Bryant about his duels with the Bucks during the early 2000s. Bryant “was so detailed and emotional” in his response, giving Yohannes a phenomenal answer that explained Ray Allen’s game in-depth.
Yohannes said he’ll never forget the experience. He keeps a picture frame of the game, box-score and his credentials in his room.
“It’s an opportunity I’m really blessed to say I was able to do,” he said. “To be an NBA reporter in school, essentially doing what I dreamed of doing … it was a great time in my life that I never take for granted.”
Yohannes also wrote for the Green Bay Packers’ SB Nation blog in college, covering the NFL Draft and college prospects. Despite not being credentialed, he still holds the experience in high-esteem because it was the first website he wrote for.
After graduating in December 2015, Yohannes found opportunities in Milwaukee hard to come by. However, he finally found a breakthrough eight months later as a digital media producer for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Fresh out of college and having never visited Seattle, Yohannes was stepping out of his comfort zone. This role set the tone for how he wanted to shape his career, and he was willing to take that chance.
“I took an opportunity because it was something that I knew I could do, it was my way to get into media,” he said. “Nobody expected me to work for a team … but it was an opportunity for me and something I wanted to do.”
Yohannes worked for the Seahawks for two years, an experience filled with ups and downs that taught him how to work as a professional in the sports world. He currently has taken a role as a social media editor but admitted storytelling remains his specialty.
“There’s an art to telling a really good story through the written word,” he said. “When people read something, they’ll know it’s you.”
He continued, “When I would read stories from Lee Jenkins and Sports Illustrated, I knew from the first sentence I read that it was [his] story. The art of written storytelling is different than video, documentaries, social media and photography because you can put your personal touch on it.”
Yohannes said he actually prefers being an NFL writer more than an NBA writer — despite his college work with the NBA.
Due to the pandemic, Yohannes is now spending a lot of time at home. “This pandemic has taught me to be more adventurous, and to just try different things,” he said.
His hobbies in his spare time include listening to vinyl records, gaming and his favorite, baking Oreo truffles.
Yohannes stressed the importance of mental health, well-being and checking up on friends and family. He picked up yoga three months ago, a hobby he combines with morning walks and healthy eating to spark his creativity.
Looking forward, Yohannes now hopes to return to the early days of his career doing the things he loves most.
“I’ve worked in so many different jobs where I’m the Swiss army knife,” he said. “Whether it’s editing or building stories … that space is the one I primarily want to get back into and focus on the most.”