Malcolm Lemmons is a professional athlete turned entrepreneur, author, and public speaker. After graduating from Niagara University with a degree in business management, he went on to pursue a professional basketball career overseas. Now, he focuses on helping athletes build their personal brands and prepare for life after sports.
Malcolm has landed media coverage with outlets such as ABC 7 & TVOne. His articles have been featured in the Huffington Post, AthleteNetwork & other publications. He recently published his first novel, Lessons From the Game, and he can be found at www.malcolmlemmons.com or on Twitter & Instagram.
Q: Take me along your basketball journey.
A: During my childhood, basketball was just an escape to get away from the things that were going on in my personal life. So I kind of just used it as something to do to stay away from getting involved with the wrong crowd or doing things I wasn’t supposed to. But the more I played, the more I fell in love with the game.
I really didn’t start taking it seriously until I got to high school and saw how competitive the game was at that level. Going to Gonzaga College High School, which is one of the top schools in Washington D.C., I started to see how many people play basketball and how much time and effort I would have to put into it.
My freshman and sophomore years, I really started to grow as a player, but I tried out for varsity my sophomore year and got cut. That was kind of a wake up call for me. I almost gave up the game completely and I wanted to take a step back to analyze if it was something that really I wanted to do. But my mom talked me back into playing.
During my junior and senior years, I really started to put more time into the game and reap the benefits. I started to get scholarship offers and a lot of interest from Division I schools. So I started to see that my hard work was paying off.
I ended up committing to play at Niagara University, where I had a lot of ups and downs. I played a lot as a freshman, got sick my sophomore year, and had a lot of injuries. So although I feel like I could’ve been better, I learned a lot about myself through those years at Niagara. I really matured and grew as an athlete and as a man.
After my junior year, the whole coaching staff left to go to another school, and I felt that it was in my best interest to transfer for my last year. So I went out to an NAIA school called California State University San Marcos and probably had my best season playing basketball; I was an All-American, our team was 32-2, and we reached the Elite Eight.
Once I graduated, I had an opportunity to go play in Japan. I played there for two years and had a lot of ups and downs over there as well. Overseas life was different; A huge culture shock and a huge adjustment.
“I felt like my story could be impactful on someone else’s life.”
After that, I started to analyze life after basketball and think about what I wanted to do next. During my time in Japan, I really started to get into writing and had a lot of time to think about what allowed me to get to that point. The more I wrote, the more inspired I got, and I felt like my story could be impactful on someone else’s life. All of my experiences through basketball basically turned into a book, so I got it published when I came back home.
I really wanted to give back to athletes and help them build their brands because I saw what my experiences had done for me, not only as a basketball player, but as a person. I feel like a lot of athletes go through some of the same obstacles that I went through and that they can use those experiences to create other opportunities away from their sport.
Q: What are some of the ways that you help athletes through your business?
A: I’m launching a branding agency and we’re going to be focused on helping athletes tell their stories better. Digitally, we’re going to be helping with website design, logo design, social media management, brand strategy, and things of that nature. We want to help athletes build awareness of who they are and lay the foundation for whatever they want to do off the playing field.
Q: What advice would you give to an athlete who is approaching the end of their career to help them start building their brand?
A: The first thing would be to figure out what you’re really passionate about. Start to think about what you want to do and who you are. I think a lot of athletes box themselves in. They think of themselves solely as an athlete, instead of a person with a variety of interests who just happens to also play a sport.
They have to take themselves out of that box first and foremost, and see themselves as more. It’s important for them to understand that their sport is not going to carry them for the rest of their life and that they will eventually have to do something else.
“The intangibles that you learn from playing a sport can be applied to any area of life. As athletes, we need to leverage those traits within whatever career we want to transition into.”
Q: What would you say is the biggest challenge of transitioning into the corporate world after being an athlete?
A: I think the biggest challenge is the lack of knowledge. When you play a sport, it’s essentially been your life for so long that it’s difficult when you try to transition into any other field because you don’t have the experience.
For me, that was definitely the most challenging part. But it really just started with figuring out what I wanted to do and taking it one day at a time. It’s just a learning curve. So when they’re transitioning, athletes have to try not to put pressure on themselves or feel overwhelmed. You have to take it step by step and understand it as a process, just like playing a sport. You don’t become good at your sport overnight. It takes time.
Q: What do you think is the biggest advantage of that transition?
A: I think there are a ton of advantages that a lot of athletes don’t realize they have. The intangibles that you learn from playing a sport can be applied to any area of life: teamwork, discipline, self-motivation, time management, the ability to face adversity, the ability to be coachable. Whether you’re becoming an entrepreneur or any other field that you get into, these are invaluable traits that someone who didn’t play a sport may not necessarily have. As athletes, we need to leverage those traits within whatever career we want to transition into.
Q: What is your favorite part about what you do?
A: The people I’ve been able to connect with over the past year have been the best part of it all. I’ve been able to meet a lot of people I never thought I’d be in contact with. It’s been cool to see how much being transparent and putting yourself out there can make you relatable.
I didn’t expect people to actually be interested in reading the content that I was putting out, but I think my honesty and ability to talk about my obstacles shows people that “human side.” So I think that’s been the best part: Talking about the things I’ve been through and seeing how that’s had an affect on other people.
Q: What is your main goal for your business moving forward?
A: My ultimate vision is to be that premiere branding agency that athletes use to manifest whatever they want to do away from the playing field. A lot of athletes have people approach them with opportunities like this, but I don’t think everyone understands an athlete’s perspective. Your brand is huge nowadays, and if they lay the groundwork while they’re still playing, athletes will be able to create any other opportunities for whatever else they choose to do.
Q: You talk quite a bit about visualization in your book and on other media platforms. How have you used visualization as an athlete and as an entrepreneur?
A: I think that’s where everything starts: In your mind. I visualize every day. I try to picture where I see myself in the future and how my day-to-day actions or routines are going to help me get there. What you see in your mind can manifest into reality. And I believe anything is possible, but you have to have a powerful vision for where you want to go and how to execute it, especially if you have big goals.