Legends in Business Q&A
NBA.com recently interviewed Jamal Mashburn to learn about some of his highlights and challenges both on the court and in the business world.
1) In 1993 you were the first round draft pick for the Dallas Mavericks. What challenges did you have as you transitioned from college basketball to the NBA?
The on the court stuff was pretty easy. I felt that I adjusted pretty well to the speed of the game because Coach Pitino was a pro coach before he got to the University of Kentucky with the New York Knicks. Being a New Yorker, I kind of followed his career with the Knicks a little bit and also with Providence. So I had an understanding that I was going to a coach that was going to teach a pro style system. For me that transition was seamless on the court. I was able to step right in and he prepared me for those things. Off the court, being a 20-year-old kid in a new environment Ė I got drafted by the Mavericks Ė it was difficult managing time. When youíre in college everything is structured for you as far as class, school, your day is pretty much set for you. When you are an NBA player, you have a lot of time on your hands. I had to get a better understanding of how to utilize that time. Having visions of going into the business world, I drifted towards that area. I always kept myself busy, but for young players, it is understanding that this is a business. You do have to manage your time. There is more to it than just two hour practice, shootaround or a game. Those things are difficult and everyone needs his own rhythm and own space to survive that time because time can be deadly for some folks.
2) How did the NBA prepare you for the business world and what similarities have you found in both settings/environments?
When I was growing up I always wanted to carry a briefcase, so for me, the NBA was a part of my dream. It was part of the big picture. I always wanted to be a businessman. I kind of looked at coaches that Iíve had. One coach that sticks out in my mind is of course Rick Pitino who I played for in college. Pat Riley, who I played for with the Miami Heat, just seeing how he ran an organization, how he ran a team, how organized he was, how much clarity he had, how much purpose he had. It was about winning games. So it wasnít necessarily about individuals, it was about the team itself and the Miami Heat Ė learning about vision, setting goals, holding people accountable, responsibility and time management. So there are a lot of things that you pick up from experiences and being prepared for different things. Playing for Pat Riley helped me become a professional, not only in the sense of a basketball player, but also off the court.
3) When you left the NBA in 2005 due to injury, how did you make the change from basketball to business? How did you uncover the opportunities with your car dealerships and Jackson Plastics? Was your interest in these endeavors driven by your relationships with others in the business community or through your relationships with other players?
I started in the car business back in 1999. The opportunity presented itself first with a Ford store in central Kentucky. That didnít go too well. We were just in a bad area at that particular time, but that is how I got introduced into the car business. Then we sold that business, got out of that, and found a Toyota dealership and Lexus dealership under one owner who was willing to sell. At the time, I was looking for something to get into because I didnít know how long I was going to play or how long I wanted to play. So I started to set myself that way. We grew in the automobile industry beyond those two stores and then we found that dealing with Toyota as a partner, not only a retail side, but also I enjoyed manufacturing. So that is how I got into Jackson Plastics. It was a minority manufacturer. Weíre actually a Tier 1 supplier to Toyota. They had great relationships and I enjoyed the way we did business with Toyota and the type of company they were. They treat everybody as a partner and were willing to help. It was just a natural fit for me. Iíve really enjoyed this whole experience with the car business and also Jackson Plastics. It allowed me to step into something and make my transition out of basketball very seamless.
What factors contributed to your success in these post-NBA endeavors?
For me it was planning. That was the biggest thing. I had a vision of what I wanted to be at an early age, not just a basketball player. Iíve always disliked the stereotypes of athletes can only do their sport and they canít do anything else. Iíve always been the guy that had broader interests. I am a humble guy that likes to find out information at its lowest level and build myself up. The transition started for me when I was 15, 16 years old looking at guys on the train station carrying briefcases because that is what I wanted to be. I looked at basketball as, Do I want to play until Iím 35 or 40 years old? Probably not because I had a feeling that I would get bored at that particular point. I needed different challenges in my life. I had other goals and other visions, so planning the execution and having another vision beyond athletics is something Iíve always thought of. I remember my mother telling me all the time, she didnít know a whole lot about sports or know how good I was. She would always say, You better get your books and get into computers because you want to have something to fall back on in case basketball doesnít work out. I have always looked at it as basketball will work out because I am pretty good at it and I am going to apply time to it and work at it, but I wanted to leave the game with a healthy quality of life and an ability to step into something. Itís almost like not falling back on something, but falling forward to something.
4) What role does having a diverse workforce play in your businesses?
I look at diversity in a sense of not just color, race or gender. I look at it in terms of diversity of ideas. I understand that race is also an important part of it, but we all live different experiences. I am the type of owner that takes input from a lot of different people because I am into innovation and doing things in a different way. I donít want a cookie cutter approach. Diverse ideas, challenging the norm and challenging the employees is something that I really look to. Diversity is key because how can you evolve and grow as a person and business if you donít have those things? It is a very important aspect of my business. Also being an African American, I understand my responsibility to others to create chances for them, not only through a scholarship fund, but through employment and also through sharing information of what my experiences were, not only in the NBA but life in Harlem or how to transition out of something. So having diversity of thoughts and ideas is a big part of what I do and a diverse group of people brings that to the table.
How do you work with your managers to ensure your organization is diverse and that you are hiring ďqualityĒ people?
I look at history before and do my research and look at the history of the industry. Then I try to find new inventive ways to do things. How do you grow a business if you donít have those new thoughts and youíre not willing to take risk and do research and development? For example, my car business, we arenít always going to search out people that had car sales experience. Weíll dip into people who have had regular sales experience or somebody who deals in integrity, has knowledge, is a good person and wants to advance and work hard. For me, the resume is what it is, but you donít necessarily have to have experience in that industry as long as you can bring good qualities or values to the table.
5) Before signing your first professional contract you donated $500,000 to establish an endowment that awards high school students with a full scholarship to attend the University of Kentucky. What was your inspiration for setting up this endowment?
It had a lot to do with what I believed as a child growing up. I had gifts to be an athlete, but I realized looking at my neighborhood that everybody doesnít have a chance to be an athlete or entertainer, so how are they going to get to college? So that was my main premise of setting up the scholarship fund. C.M. Newton and Rick Pitino put the whole thing together for me. I just felt like every kid deserves an opportunity to go to college. At least I can do my small part and help kids achieve certain goals. I wasnít looking for kids that were A-students or necessarily D-students, but kids that are well rounded C-students that may not have a scholarship opportunity. That was my main premise setting up the whole thing and helping the community out to relive the experience that I lived in college. I thought every kid should go to college unless he has a chance to go to the NBA from high school, which is few and far between. I just wanted to do a non-athletic educational scholarship.
How many students have benefited from the endowment so far?
Thirty students from the Kentucky area have benefited from it. Weíre looking to maybe in the future make it a national thing where kids can apply from all different parts of the country. The person that is heading it up for me is a gentleman named David Allen. He was one of the first recipients of the scholarship and now he works for my company and does a lot of other things for us. So we not only follow the kids through, we also try to help in some cases, to seek employment for them after they finish school.