Life is about moments, narrow windows of time that carry extraordinary significance and wield the power to transform a community.

Moments in sports hold a further unique place in society. Sports are the only setting where the result of these moments manifests in real time, where the protagonist learns which binary outcome, a win or a loss, will be the result of their tireless dedication.

DeeRonn Booker spent years working to create his moment, for his opportunity to make his dream a reality. His moment, one much bigger than the typical top seed of a PBA major championship, arrived on Sunday.

What made his moment so special? 0.33 and 0.54.

Those were the percentage of titles won by Black players and the percentage of Black champions in the 66-year history of the PBA Tour before last Sunday’s USBC Masters.

George Branham III won five times in the 1980s and 1990s, including the 1993 Firestone PBA Tournament of Champions. Gary Faulkner Jr. won the 2015 Rolltech PBA World Championship. 

And then DeeRonn Booker won the Masters.

A horde of fans lined up outside Suncoast Bowling Center well before 7 a.m. on Easter Sunday, all desperate to snag a front-row seat for the season’s third major championship finals.

Many of these devout spectators came to see Jason Belmonte, the PBA’s all-time major champion king, hunt down a fifth Masters and 16th career major title. But certainly not the majority.

Supporters from across the nation — from neighboring California and New Mexico, to distant Georgia and Tennessee — descended upon Sin City to see the unheralded, but uber-talented, poised and passionate man atop the stepladder.

“They came from all over to witness this moment,” Booker said. “They all believe in what we've been working on basically my entire life. I knew regardless of what I did, if I won the match or if I lost the match, that they would still be as supportive as they are today. It means the world to me.”

Booker, a 33-year-old making his PBA Tour television debut, had a chance to win his first career title and become the third Black player to win on the PBA Tour.

“I want that to be on my mind. I want to be able to write my name in history for that,” Booker said Friday after earning the top seed.  “Yes, I'm a little bit darker, but I'm still a person. I want others just to see me as a person, not to see me as a Black individual. I want them to see me as a person and say, ‘That guy can bowl. That guy won a title. That guy made the show.’ That's how I want to look at it. Now again, I'm hoping that what I'm doing is touching other people and it's helping others get to wherever they want to go in this game and in life in general.”

About an hour before the show, Booker spoke with a group of spectators. One of them, on the verge of tears, hugged Booker close and spoke with a voice teeming with reverence:

You have an opportunity to do something special… seize it. Embrace this moment.

Booker did.

Those within the bowling community, particularly on the west coast, have long known of Booker’s talent.

Booker won the doubles Eagle at the 2023 USBC Open Championships with long-time friend Mark Curtis Jr. During January's Team USA Trials, Booker led the first round of qualifying.

Many fans still unaware of Booker’s ascending game took notice during match play last week.

Booker sent two-time defending Masters champion Anthony Simonsen to the elimination bracket on Thursday; then on Friday, the unassuming one-hander took on EJ Tackett, who had just dispatched four-time Masters champion Belmonte.

The three-game match was over after two games: Booker shot 279 and 300 to take a 579-431 lead. Tackett, the reigning PBA Player of the Year, never had a chance.

Booker won his next two matches, defeating Sam Cooley and Patrick Dombrowski, to go undefeated in the 64-player bracket and earn the top seed.

“With the amount of work that I put in, I knew I was going to be here someday,” Booker said after his win Sunday. “I’m here now. I’m not going anywhere. I hope you guys can see me.”


A post shared by PBA TOUR (@pbatour)


Booker received his wish: The above Instagram post has been shared more than this season’s previous six title-winning videos combined.

Even while noting the PBA’s Instagram account has gained over 100,000 followers during the season, the outsized impact of Booker’s win in the bowling community is undeniable.

George Wooten, a former PBA Tour publicist and current senior writer for Bowlers Journal International, has written extensively about the weight of being one of the few players of color, often the lone player, in a bowling tournament.

“It must be overwhelming being the 'Great Black Hope,'” Wooten wrote after Booker’s win. “It can feel like carrying the weight of black history strapped to your back, and the feeling of always having to be an ambassador for the race.”

Wooten shared similar sentiments in regards following Billy Oatman’s death last year. Oatman became the first Black player to win PBA Rookie of the Year in 2007.

Well aware of the mantle that his recent performance has granted him, Booker said he welcomes the opportunity for a greater platform to inspire and empower others.

“I am prepared to wear that belt,” Booker said. “I am prepared to be that guy that's going to help push others of my same ethnicity and other backgrounds to be in this position. I know the demographic is tough for us in bowling, but my goal is to help try to break that through and not just for my ethnicity, but for all ethnic backgrounds.”

With his win, Booker has earned the opportunity to compete full-time on the PBA Tour. His title grants him an exempt berth in this month’s PBA World Series of Bowling XV and a lifetime berth in the PBA Tournament of Champions.

While he acknowledged winning more titles and earning accolades on the PBA Tour are goals of his, they are far from his primary motivator.

“I would love to work for the industry,” Booker said. “I would love to be able to help guys get to where I'm at right now. Because I am as fulfilled helping them as I am sitting here right now. I really want to be able to help other people get to experience what I'm experiencing right now.”