Baron Davis’ path to basketball stardom started when he was a toddler playing on a court that his grandfather made as a Christmas present. Later in his life, a chance meeting with legendary cager Magic Johnson helped him succeed as an athlete with an entrepreneurial mindset.
“Always bet on yourself and make sure you align yourself with the right people who are also willing to bet on you,” Davis says.
1. Learning From Life-Changing Events
Erik: When you were 4 years old, were you already dreaming of being a top athlete and an entrepreneur?
Baron: I was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. My grandfather built me a basketball court for Christmas. And from that, it was just all she wrote. I was on the court 24/7. My grandparents took my sister and me. They taught us lessons in humility and being appreciative.
Erik: Did you know right away that basketball was what you wanted to do with your life?
Baron: My life was spent with basketball almost every single day. My grandmother had to call me to come inside. It’s all I can remember. It was an everyday thing where I could use my imagination and disconnect from the world.
Erik: You went to Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica during high school, right? How did that transition happen?
Baron: I got a scholarship. In seventh grade, I learned what the other side of town looks like. South Central Los Angeles does not have a lot of resources or opportunities. Being in Crossroads showed me what success was like as I saw some of my friends’ parents go into their office after work. It triggered a focus in me that I have to take this opportunity and do all I can to take responsibility and build a bridge.
Erik: At what point did you realize that basketball could be your career?
Baron: I would say it became real when I met Magic Johnson and got an opportunity to play at UCLA. When I was in high school and got a chance to play the pros one summer, Magic came up to me and said he wanted me to go to UCLA. He inspired me a lot, and that meeting gave me so much motivation.
2. How Magic Johnson Became His Mentor
Baron: He’s been someone who leads by example. A lot of times, you need those examples. He was my example in basketball and business.
Baron: When I got to college, I was there to write my ticket. I got hurt during my freshman year. People didn’t think that I would make it. But UCLA taught me a lot of hustle and determination. They taught me never to give up. Having the opportunity to play in L.A., in front of my friends and family, was the best thing for me.
Erik: Tell me about when you were drafted by the NBA. Did you feel that you had really made it?
Baron: It was like everything I worked hard for. Everything I dreamed about became a reality. It’s like the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new chapter. My stay in the NBA taught me what being a professional is all about.
However, off the court it made me realize that players live a boring life. So I asked myself, outside of basketball, “What else are you doing to sharpen yourself and make your mind active?” It got me thinking about what life would be like after basketball.
3. Making the Most of Opportunities
Erik: How did your equity endorsement deal with Vitamin Water figure into your NBA career?
Baron: That was year three in my NBA career. Vitamin Water was a small company then, and I could get a marketing opportunity and turn that into an investment opportunity. They loved my enthusiasm for promoting their product. I was helping and learning the business while I was still playing in the NBA. It taught me how to become my agent and operate by myself.
Erik: So, you did not get an agent to negotiate your NBA deals?
Baron: I partnered with my agent and started my agency. It was an incredible opportunity to look at basketball differently. In my first three years in the NBA, I interned with our agency, so I used to look at contracts. You learn as you go. From there, I learned how an NBA contract is set and what my value is to the NBA and what the league’s value is to my brand.
Erik: Where did that entrepreneurial mindset come from?
Baron: Part of it was from my grandparents and just learning as much as you can. I always ask how I can help. The more information I know, the better I can assist and be of service. If someone says he is going to teach us, then I want to learn.
4. Life After the NBA: Becoming an Entrepreneur
Erik: How long were you in the NBA? And during that time, what else did you do outside the league?
Baron: I was there for 13 years. Since then, I have started my agency, a film company, and a music company. Then, we created one of the first digital agencies that teach NBA players and teams how to use Twitter. I also got into products and technology. This got me thinking about technology service content and the type of content we want to participate in.
For now, it’s a lot of learning and growing. I’ve also been fortunate to be part of the YouTube MCM vertical. We sold one of our companies to start Vice Sports. I am focusing more on sports marketing and content because I know how an athlete, agent, and brand think.
Erik: Why did you decide to end your NBA chapter and move on to entrepreneurship? Did you drive full force into entrepreneurship, and how did it go for you?
Baron: I had a career-ending injury. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. But, the injury forced me to supercharge the way I wanted to grow into it. I can still play basketball at my leisure. But right now, we are looking at building the first African American tech studio. Our goal is to create data transparency for creators and people of culture. We want to create a studio to help them make their content aside from playing their sports.
Erik Huberman is the Founder & CEO of Hawke Media, a full-service Outsourced CMO based in Santa Monica, CA that launched in 2014 and has been valued at $60 million. Read more of Erik Huberman’s Thought Leadership here.
Featured Image credit to Getty Images.