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Recapping BSS Day 1: Rich Paul, Dawn Staley, & More

In April, I had the honor and privilege to attend the Black Sports Symposium event sponsored by ESPN, NFL, MLB, MLS, and so forth, where over 10,000 people applied, but only 1,700 got accepted… It made me feel I belonged and I’m worthy, especially after all the highs and lows I’ve been through on this journey personally and in life.

It was my first time flying alone on April 12th: An actual coming-of-age moment for me, and the first time flying on a plane in 16 years since I flew for Sea World in Florida for my 7th birthday, so yeah, the butterflies were there, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and was only a two hour flight. I arrived at my room it was absolutely beautiful, the bathroom was clean, the room was neat, bed made, no bugs, none of that. Even an outdoor porch to sit back and relax look outside at the hotel and reflect on life (which I did every day there).

The day before the event I met some great lifelong friends who I refer to as the OG’s (refer to me as nephew lol) since I’m many years younger than them, from Mike, Danny, Parrish, Justin, Meghan, Tyler, and Chris. All great people who are doing great things in creating sports content, even creating a group chat together where we all support each other and give each other good constructive criticism and lift each other up.

Mike (left), Parrish (middle Left, Me (Middle), Danny (middle right), and Tyler (right)

Chris (Left of me), Justin (right of me)

I’m truly thankful to have met them and to have many friends in my life who are older/wiser than me as a young 22-year-old still figuring out/learning the world.

The first actual day of the event on April 13th was absolutely amazing, on that day I was in the same room as the great Dawn Staley- A WNBA legend, multi-time National Champion Head Coach for the Women’s South Carolina Gamecocks Basketball Team, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and much more.

Some lessons I learned from the great Staley is how truly authentic and real she genuinely is. Staley keeps her circle very small and came from a tough upbringing in Northern Philadelphia. Here are a few life lessons I’ve learned from the great Dawn Staley:

  • “Be an asset, not a liability”

  • “Protect your peace, don’t let everyone/everything bother you”

  • “Never get too high, or too low…Keep an equilibrium”

  • “ Learn how to lose, to learn how to win big”

  • “In hurt and discomfort, there is growth”

  • Self-assured, doesn’t care about what others think/opinions

These hit me so deeply after everything I’ve been through in my life, especially the darkest time of my life from August ‘22 to January ‘23 when I went through heartbreak, life stress, losing someone important to me, and so forth. The protect your peace and self-assured part hit me because she hit it right on that life is always going to have obstacles thrown at you and not everyone is going to like you.

Are you going to let that affect you when you know who you truly are as a person? Are you going to let it eat you alive what others think? If you do you won’t be able to make it in this life if you keep pondering about others' opinions about you and everything else and that’s something I really took out from the legend.

Another thing that stood out to me is when she stated never get too high or too low and learn how to lose, to learn how to win big. Throughout times in my life, there have been times I would get extremely excited such as getting a media job I landed in February of 2022, or when I had over 800 views on my NBA 75 article on the website I launched in September of 2021.

There were also times in life where I had many lows, sometimes even depressed, such as having my heart shattered in December of 2022 by someone I thought I’d spend my life with when I meant good by them, constant job rejections from media jobs from sports, marketing, etc that made me want to quit, and so forth thinking I was cursed or had bad luck.

Hearing the great Staley reiterate this to me how life is full of ups and downs, but you can’t get too high or low on yourself, you have to learn how to overcome obstacles and lose to win big in life and come out stronger from all the pain you’ve endured and use it as motivation to come out better and stronger.

As Staley stated, “In hurt and discomfort, there is growth.” That’s exactly what happened to me in my life and I totally resonated with that statement.

Learning from Rich Paul

An icon, mogul, trendsetter, and game-changer are the words I would use to describe the legendary Rich Paul, who’s LeBron James agent and CEO of Klutch Sports. He took time out of his very busy schedule to come to spend time with all the attendees in Atlanta and dropped nothing but gems to everyone that was blessed to hear the knowledge he was giving.

As a big basketball historian of the NBA and a LeBron James fan, it was a surreal moment getting to meet and shake hands with someone who’s revolutionized the sports agency game and someone I never envisioned meeting in the flesh.

Here’s what I learned from Paul:

  • Always tries to do what’s best for the athlete

  • His mom was absent due to being addicted to cocaine

  • Used to pick up dimes and nickels for cheeseburgers

  • “It ain’t all ups and downs, but the downs are just as important as the ups.”

  • Can’t take shortcuts to success

  • “If your habits are bad, money doesn’t matter”

  • “Don’t embrace your excuses”

Some of the things he mentioned that day I never knew of his mom being addicted to cocaine and how he had to pick up chump change off the street to even get him something to eat such as a cheeseburger which to me showed his willingness to get it by any means necessary.

What really stood out to me were the quotes and how I related to them. The one that stood out to me the most was “It ain’t all ups and downs, but the downs are just as important as the ups.” That really hit me because I’ve been through a lot in my life, from having torn my ACL in my right knee in June of 2016, which cost me my whole junior year of sports in basketball and track, and fracturing my wrist the summer prior, having my heart broken December 2022, losing important people in my life, and just the struggle at times in life with a single mother and more.

It’s all made me stronger mentally, emotionally, and physically, making me the man I am today and I’m thankful for those experiences because life ain’t always “sunshine and rainbows” as the old saying goes and only its toughest soldiers survive the darkest of times.

August 2022 to January 2023 was the darkest time of my life and that quote deeply resonated with me and what I’ve been through in life.

Another one of those quotes that stood out to me was when he stated “ Can’t take shortcuts to success.” If you want to be successful and make a positive lasting imprint as a figure in this world in whatever it is, sports, music, acting, becoming a doctor, lawyer, and so forth… If you want to be great you must put in the work and go the extra mile that most wouldn’t… That is how you separate yourself from your peers and stand out.

That ties into another thing he mentioned about not embracing excuses. As they say “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard” and it couldn’t be more true. It doesn’t matter how talented you are in whatever your given profession, if you don’t put in the work to maximize your gifts whether it’s your voice as a singer, acting as an actor, body for an athlete, and so forth… You’ll always have regrets about never seeing how far and great you could become because you weren’t willing to try to do the little things to take the next step.

Remember, it’s always better to try your best and know you gave it your all than to never try and have regrets. That’s what I abide by every day from my sports brand, relationships, and so on give it all you got every single day because it can go a long way.

Thank you Rich Paul for inspiring me and giving me wisdom on how to be successful in life… Have even more profound respect for the legend.

Day One was a memorable day where I had the chance to meet many great figures in the sports world and connect with many great people with the same mindsets and passions such as myself whether was former All-Pro NFL Linebacker Takeo Spikes, Jacksonville Jaguars Head of Community Relations Whitney Meyers, NBA Vice President of Team Marketing & Business Operations, Mike Taylor, and San Antonio Spurs reporter and my good friend Jazz Tamir.

Coming up next time on Day 2 of the Black Sports Symposium are lessons I learned from Georgia Native and NFL NBC anchor Maria Taylor. NFL Network Correspondent Steve Wyche, and Chief of Diversity and Inclusion of the Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA) and Minnesota Lynx (WNBA), Tru Pettigrew on what was another resourceful day.

Until then here are some photos I took with some people from Day 1 of the event:

Takeo Spikes- ESPN SEC Reporter/ Former NFL All-Pro

Whitney Meyers- Head of Community Relations for Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike Taylor- NBA Vice President of Marketing and Business Operations

Jazz Tamir- San Antonio Spurs Reporter/Friend

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