Section Image: Sekou Lewis and David Russell sit on the stage with microphones at the event.

Sekou Lewis of the Dallas Mavericks Featured in Neeley Speaker Series "Against All Odds"

Lewis inspired students as he shared his successful journey from being a nationally ranked high school basketball player to the corporate offices of the NBA and described the invaluable lessons he learned by overcoming obstacles.

September 15, 2022

By Nicholas Ferrandino

Students, faculty and staff filled Shaddock Auditorium at TCU Neeley School of Business to hear from National Basketball Association executive Sekou Lewis, who transitioned from professional basketball aspirations to a lawyer and business leader. Along the way he faced obstacles and ultimately changed careers, but remained close to the court and his first love, basketball.

Today Lewis is the General Counsel for the Dallas Mavericks and the speaker for the second installment of Neeley’s Office of Inclusive Excellence speaker series, Against All Odds: Stories of Grit and Determination.

Sekou LewisLewis was joined on stage by Neeley Alumnus and Neeley Board of Advisors member V. David Russell, who moderated the discussion and walked the student audience through Lewis’s triumphs and hardships. Russell led Lewis through pivotal moments in his life story, from his aspirations as a grade school basketball player to his current role as General Counsel for the Dallas Mavericks.

Starting in middle school, Lewis believed he was destined for the NBA. He spent his grade-school years as a standout player. He excelled on the court gaining national rankings,and played alongside NBA superstar LeBron James at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

However, Lewis ran into several hurdles by the time he reached college. During the basketball season, he suffered a torn meniscus. While he was still recovering, Lewis received the news that his grandfather had died.

It was a pivotal moment of his life where Lewis’ character and fortitude were put to the test.

“Grit is about how you adjust to a situation and how you continue to persevere forward.” Lewis said. “The only way you find out what you’re made of and if you have grit is if you get knocked down.”

TCU Neeley undergraduate student Adrianna Araujo said the personal stories shared by Lewis show that everyone faces challenges.

“The most important thing is how you respond to adversity,” Araujo said. “You have to see adversity as a lesson learned, then pick yourself up and keep moving forward.

After his grandfather’s death, Lewis learned his grandfather had persevered through the many adversities of being a Black man in 1930s America to study to become a doctor at Harvard University.

Inspired by his grandfather, Lewis began focusing more on his classes and discovered he had an affinity for academics and legal doctrine. After completing his bachelor degree in criminal law, Lewis went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law.

While his focus shifted to a law career, Lewis never abandoned his passion for basketball.

“I realized it was time to move on from basketball, so I learned to love it a different way,” shared Lewis.

Through a combination of determination, good fortune and grit as he built his law career, Lewis was eventually hired as the Chief Legal Officer for the Dallas Mavericks, one of the most recognized names in American basketball.

Becoming proficient at something other than your dream job does not mean you are giving up on it, he said. In fact, those skills may open new paths that could eventually bring you back to your true passion, much in the same way it did for Lewis. He advised the audience that in every endeavor—athletic, personal, educational, career, or otherwise— they should “always be a pro.”

Sekou Lewis joins Neeley students for lunch in the Board Room.

Identifying a role in a supportive company, like the Dallas Mavericks, is also key in any professional journey. Dallas Maverick executives showed up to support Lewis and joined students in the audience during the speaker session, including Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall, who will return to TCU Neeley in February for the Tandy Executive Speaker Series.

Just prior to speaking to the larger group of students in Shaddock auditorium, Lewis sat down for lunch with a small, diverse group of Neeley students, including student athletes involved in the Neeley NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) program. During the lunch meeting, he shared additional insights about overcoming life challenges.

Lewis told students, the path to your dream job is almost never a straight line. There will be obstacles, detours, and dead ends along the way. He advised those who have just begun seeking a professional journey is to put their full effort into achieving goals, but be prepared to change course.

“Be accepting of opportunities as they come your way,” Lewis said. “Understand that your next move is not your last move.”

Sekou Lewis with the members of the Board