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The rise of pickleball’s Big Poppa Jimmy — Selkirk TV Originals: A Pickleball Docuseries

By Brynn Grissom

on Oct 23, 2023

James Ignatowich reflects on how he got the nickname Big Poppa Jimmy

When most people hear the name “Big Poppa,” they think of The Notorious B.I.G., but in the pickleball world, there is another that comes to mind: James Ignatowich

On his way to winning his first gold medal on the PPA Tour, James gave an unforgettable interview during which the nickname “Big Poppa Jimmy” was born. 

In the latest installment of Selkirk TV Originals: A Pickleball Docuseries, James takes a look back at the weekend and how his nickname has circulated since. 

Men’s singles

After battling all weekend, James made it to Championship Sunday where he faced off against JW Johnson. 

He dominated the first game and won 11-1 before grinding out the second game, eventually winning 11-8. The win secured his first PPA gold medal in the men’s singles bracket — but it’s often not the win that fans remember about that day. 

Mixed doubles

After winning singles gold, James teamed up with fellow Selkirk pro Catherine Parenteau in mixed doubles. 

James says playing with Catherine was the first time he was able to partner with an “elite” mixed doubles partner, and the duo ran through the bracket, taking out several tough teams, including JW and Jorja Johnson. 

The pinnacle match of their run, however, came in the semi-final match when they faced off against top-seeded Riley Newman and Anna Bright. Not only were James and Catherine up against formidable opponents, but James also had to overcome the personal challenge of facing off against Anna, who is his girlfriend. 

The first two games were tight (Anna and Riley took game one 11-7; Catherine and James took game two 11-9), but Catherine and James dominated game three at first, racking up a score of 9-1. 

That’s when James’ legs started cramping. 

Suddenly, the game started to slip away. Riley and Anna came storming back, bringing the score to 10-10. But Catherine and James pushed through, eventually winning 12-10. 

The infamous interview

Immediately following the semi-final matchup, James gave the now-infamous “Big Poppa Jimmy” interview. 

Liv Borski asked James how he responded to the cramping during the match. In true James fashion, he ignored the question and responded with: 

“The monkey’s off my back and daddy’s home. Just so you know, Big Poppa Jimmy — monkey’s off the back. Daddy’s home. Let’s go! … I don’t remember what the question was.” 

Reflecting on the interview, James jokes that there’s life before the interview and a different life after the interview. Liv says that she blacked out during the interview and had to rewatch to figure out what he actually said. 

To seal the weekend, James and Catherine went on to win gold over Julian Arnold and Lauren Stratman. 

So James secured his first two PPA Gold medals and a new nickname that reverberates at every tour event. 

Download the Selkirk TV app HERE to watch the complete episode and many other Selkirk TV original shows, podcasts, lesson series from the pros, and much more. 

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