Bonnie-Jill Laflin wears many hats: She’s a sports correspondent, Lakers expert and philanthropist. And now she’s trying her hand at reality television.
Laflin was the first female NBA scout and has been in the sports industry for years. She’s worked for FOX Sports, BBC Sport and ESPN. And her stint as a Lakers scout starting in 2005 prompted VH1 to bring Laflin on for Season 6 of Basketball Wives.
“I decided to go on [the show] because I wanted to use this a a platform to showcase empowering women,” Laflin, 41, tells PEOPLE.”They wanted me to come on show so that it can go on in a different direction.”
Here’s what you need to know about the basketball expert shaking up the show.
She cheered for the Dallas Cowboys
At the age of 19, Laflin was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. She joined the squad in 1996, cheering on one of her favorite players, Emmitt Smith. “I never realized how those cheerleaders are just as popular as the players in some places!” she says. “We were in Mexico doing an appearance and we got chased by locals in Mexico City who tried to knock our bus over, people were fanatical and fascinated by us.” Laflin even appeared on the Dallas Cowboys cover calendar. “It was a stepping stone,” she says. “It got me a lot of jobs later on.”
One of those gigs: the NBA’s first female scout
Laflin was a Lakers scout from 2005-2012. Her first recruit? Jordan Farmar, who played with the Lakers from 2006 until 2010. She went on to be a sportscaster and correspondent for FOX Sports, BBC and ESPN.
Kobe Bryant is her favorite Lakers player
“I didn’t scout him, but being able to see him from when he first started playing with the team to seeing him retire the work was amazing,” says Laflin. “His drive to win is unparalleled.”
She’s an animal lover
Laflin’s nonprofit Hounds and Heroes is “dedicated to lifting the spirits and morale of our active, wounded, and veteran military troops worldwide, and to increase awareness about the cruelty to animals.” Started in 2010, she helps rescue shelter dogs and pairs them up with wounded warriors. “I’m a crazy animal person,” says Laflin. “I grew up on a ranch, so this cause is close to my heart.”
And she promises tons of drama on this season of Basketball Wives
“There are a lot of passionate women on the cast,” says Laflin of colorful costars Evelyn Lozada, Shaunie O’Neal, Tami Roman and Jackie Christie, among others. “When you get a bunch of women together, not everyone will always agree. I don’t engage in that drama. I take the high road; you’ll see how I handle funny situations!”