Desmond Mason is an unbelievable role model for athletes as well as entrepreneurs and here is his story going from the NBA to entrepreneurship. After playing for over a decade in the NBA, Desmond has taken his passion for art and developed an incredible career. He’s combined his natural skills, talents he learned in the NBA and he’s building a brand. I had the honor of speaking with Desmond and hearing his story. Take a listen!
Jay: While you played in the NBA you were known as a great player and won the slam dunk contest in 2001. Now you’ve gotten into the art industry and earned a great reputation. What’s it like moving from an NBA player to visionary artist?
Desmond: Art has always been something that I cherished. Even during my career in the NBA I was always drawing something on the bus while others were playing on their x-box. Playing in the NBA is an amazing privilege and I loved every minute, but art is my passion. We’ve been very fortunate to have picked up speed in the industry and we’ve collaborated with brands like Lexus, Ferrari and others. Seeing how my work has spread to places all over Asia, Spain and others has been a real blessing.
Jay: You’ve grown your brand with the hashtag #beyourself What experiences have inspired you to lead the brand with that mindset?
Desmond: I’m glad you brought that up Jay, because I think this is the pillar of inspiration that sparked my passion in art and it’s what carries me forward every day. So many people go through life feeling confined by the need to conform and I believe that inhibits them from reaching their personal potential. I know for myself that playing sports definitely has the ability to allow you to use your strengths to bring out the best of your abilities. At the same time, part of the responsibility you have when playing for a team confines you to a large degree. There’s no question it’s the way the game should be played but the element of finding a way to #beyourself is so important in many areas of life.
Jay: You’ve done an amazing job taking your skills from the court to the business world. I think players in particular have so many skills that can help them achieve success in life after sports. Speaking to other players whom you’ve played with or young players just getting into the league, what’s your take on developing a strategy for a career post sports?
Desmond: This is something I’m extremely passionate about Jay and I do my best to tell this to any young guys in the league that I speak to. There’s no question that players have talents outside of their uniforms; their hard work, toughness, team work and much more. I think part of the problem players have is that they’re afraid to fail in other areas that they haven’t yet had exposure to. To reach the NBA level is an incredible achievement and to get there you’ve got to give up pursuits in other areas to stay focused on developing your talents. When the lights go out when you’re only in your late 20’s and suddenly you need to find a career, many players have nowhere to turn. Additionally, there are so many new skills which you need to master when you get into business. Every step I take requires a certain amount of negotiation. Whether I’m looking to sell a painting or discuss a new partnership opportunity I’m forced to understand what I bring to the table and effectively articulate that to the other side. In sports I always had an agent do that for me and having the realization that I need to learn how to negotiate in order to secure a deal was a completely new skill set.
Jay: Clearly there are challenges in transitioning from sports into other opportunities outside of sports. At the same time, it’s also clear from what you’ve done that it’s extremely possible. What is your advice to younger players as they make their way through their career in sports?
Desmond: My advice to younger players is strike the iron while it’s hot. During your career, it’s not only about learning to dribble and making the shot. You’ve got to be conscious of your future and start working to build your brand from the moment you start your career. Especially today with the ability to build a personal brand with social media, use every shot you take as a way to score for your team and at the same time build your brand for the future.