At just five years old, Lakers forward Tarik Black started spending his weekends putting in a day’s worth of work. But it wasn’t on the basketball court or any athletic surface.
Black was in houses painting walls, sweeping floors and ripping up carpets.
Along with his two older brothers, Amal and Bilal, and locals in the Memphis neighborhood, Black would assist his father, Lawrence, with his residential real estate business. He owned around 15 properties through the years. Black also spent time working at his father’s thrift store and subway shop.
During his childhood, Black would wake up at 8 a.m., and Lawrence would prepare breakfast for family and friends in the area. Then they’d all hop on the back of his truck and arrive at a house at 9:30 a.m. There, they’d work through the day until 7 p.m. Sometimes, they’d go until midnight or visit two homes in one day.
At the end of the grueling outings, Lawrence would give his youngest son and the others $5 each for their efforts.
“We would go to the corner store and get us some chips or something,” Black said. “But it just taught us a whole lot about working hard. It was more of the principles that we learned through it—the work ethic—from time just spent with our dad.”
By the time Black was 10, the demands of the labor went to another level—and it even helped him gain strength and athleticism in basketball, as he was touching the rim as a fourth grader.
“I lifted washing machines, refrigerators, dryers and other household appliances that might not weigh as much but are hard to carry, like microwaves and couches,” Black told the NBPA recently in New York City. “Numerous times, me and my brothers were picking up couches and taking them into the house, or removing the couches from the house, cutting the yards, picking out weeds in the yard. It was just very strenuous work. The work was top to bottom of the house and the yard—everything.”
Now, 14 years later, Black has began to map out how he wants to follow in the footsteps of his father, who’s going on 63 years old and still has a couple of houses in Memphis, while working on a new grocery store. “He’s still very fit and in shape,” Black said.
In July—the same month he re-signed with the Lakers for two years, $12.85 million after going undrafted in 2014—Black attended the NBPA’s second annual Real Estate Symposium. And this month, he participated in the NBPA’s second annual Business, Entrepreneurship and Franchising Symposium.
Black, 24, was the youngest player by far in both programs. He discussed why he’s already preparing for life after basketball.
“I took a [recruiting] visit to Georgetown and I met with John Thompson, and he had a philosophy,” he said. “He had a flat basketball on his desk, and he used to always tell his players, ‘This is representative of the basketball’s not going to bounce forever. It’s going to stop bouncing.’ What’s for certain is these programs are here, these opportunities are here. My thing is, I’m not really worried about making the money right now. I’d rather learn things now. Knowledge and wisdom, as the Bible says, is more valuable than diamonds and gold.”
Black is also in the process of completing his master’s degree in African-American studies at Kansas, where he transferred in 2013 after spending his first three college seasons at Memphis. This week, Black returned to campus and he plans to finish classes at the end of the month.
He’ll officially receive his degree with the fall graduating class. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from Memphis, focusing on the non-profit sector, African-American studies intrigued him because his hometown is predominantly black and he wanted to learn about its history.
Black’s vision is to utilize both degrees back home.
“My passion is to go back to Memphis and do nonprofit and philanthropic work in the inner city,” he said. “I want to go back and heighten the education these kids are getting. They don’t have an even playing field as better-off kids because they aren’t learning the same things, or at the same rate.
“Also, I want to introduce them to new things that will change how they perceive the world, like take them on trips to LA, New York, etc. I want to show them the world is vast and full of opportunity that they don’t see growing up in Memphis.”
Black’s Unique Business Education
Black’s entry into extensive real estate started in July at the NBPA’s program, which included other current and former NBA players Steve Blake, Norris Cole, Rip Hamilton, Kevin Martin, Luc Mbah a Moute, and brothers Paul and Elijah Millsap.
With a concentration on commercial real estate, the players learned how to pinpoint trends and scams; compare key terms like market vs. competition, costs vs. revenues, tenants vs. landlords; and examine case studies with exact floor plans and Excel spreadsheets breaking down actual investment deals. They also heard from leaders in the industry, including ex-players Devean George and Danny Granger, who both have their own successful real estate companies.
Coming into the program, Black knew how lucrative real estate can be, noting “it’s a necessity for mankind; people are always looking for a place to stay.” He talked about walking around New York City and not only realizing how many buildings there were, but also how many opportunities there were to own.
“Somebody has to run them. Why not yourself? They’re going to be there. They’re not going to tear down a thousand buildings and reconstruct the world,” he said during the program at the Lotte New York Palace hotel in midtown Manhattan. “[The business] might go from a Starbucks to a Kinko’s or a Kinko’s to a living arrangement permitting the permits and zoning of it. But regardless, that building is going to be there. I think about that all across the country.”
After three days in the Real Estate Symposium, Black’s biggest takeaways were learning the different ways of entering the business and making money; for example, as a developer, general contractor, or active vs. passive investor. He also paid close attention to the difficulties of owning homes, dealing with tenants, and deciphering credit loans and their interest rates.
“They are things that I realize now that I didn’t realize when I was younger,” he said. “Now, I can learn from what my dad did and what he went through because I was there.”
While the program was focused on commercial real estate, he’s leaving all of the doors open for future ventures. In the meantime, he’s working on his first project: looking to secure his family’s old house and his stepmother’s next door, both in downtown Memphis. They’re located right behind a renovated mall and entertainment center, which is in the prime real estate area of the developing part of downtown.
“If I can get both of those houses, I can do anything. The sky’s the limit,” he said. “I can tear it down, build four houses, rebuild the houses and sell them.”
The low cost of the opportunity appeals to him.
“It’s just a way for me to slo-mo into it and not do million projects, where you’re risking a lot of money,” he said. “I know the things I’m going to overlook, things that I still have to learn a lot about it. So it’s something that’s very economical and cost effective. I might not make that much money because it’s not what it’s about right now. It’s about learning what I’m doing.”
With his eagerness to take control of his first real estate project, Black also signed up for the NBPA’s three-day Business, Entrepreneurship and Franchising Symposium.
“I feel like I have a future in real estate and entrepreneurship,” he said during the program at the NBPA’s new headquarters in midtown Manhattan. “You might own your own business that’s a real estate firm, so you need to learn how to start it up—cash flows, business models, things like that in order to even do real estate.”
During the first day of the program—which included current and former NBA players Maurice Ager, Trevor Booker, Brandon Hunter, Milt Palacio, John Salmons, Maurice Savage, Mustafa Shakur, Awvee Storey and Anthony Tolliver—Black learned the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, process of innovation and financial plan for a startup.
They also broke up into teams of three to build a business model canvas for a startup idea. The canvas covered key partners, key activities, key resources, value propositions, customer relationships, customer channels, customer segments, cost structure and revenue streams.
“The biggest takeaway for me is definitely learning more in-depth about the business model,” Black said. “And what that means and how that functions in creating your business and also running your business, and vetting out future investment opportunities and entrepreneurial ventures through using the business model.”
Day 2 focused on the franchising business, headlined by a two-hour discussion with ex-player Junior Bridgeman, who’s one of the country’s largest restaurant franchise operators. His Bridgeman Foods company runs 121 Chili’s and 161 Wendy’s locations nationwide, according to a story this year in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
This year, Bridgeman signed on to become Coca-Cola’s third and final bottler and distributor nationwide for Dasani water and soft, sports and fruit drinks. With the deal becoming official next year, he’s currently in the process of transferring ownership of his restaurants to his three children.
Bridgeman opened up about his humble business beginnings with the players, noting that he lost $30,000 in the first month and $300,000 in the first 10 months. He said the lesson learned was that he only bought five stores at the start, and his earnings fell way short of his expectations.
“Today I would tell you guys, ‘Instead of being a franchisee, why don’t you own the whole franchise? What don’t you become a franchisor?’” Bridgeman told the group. “You’re not going to make enough money on five stores where you’re going to really build something that’s going to be wealth-making building and something that you can pass along to your kids. But to get to that point though, you’ve got to understand the business. I can’t stress that enough.”
Black was inspired by Bridgeman’s fortitude through his early financial hurdles.
“He actually accomplished with less than that we have because we make more money now,” Black said. “He didn’t have as much and he took that big of a chance and a risk. And it just shows his perseverance. So in the future, if we want to get involved in entrepreneurship, if we want to get involved with franchising, and just business in general, we’re going to have to push through things. It’s easy to give up, but he gives that example to keep pushing and persevering.”
On the final day of the program, stemming from the business model canvas, Black, Palacio and Savage presented their startup idea to a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs, in a Shark Tank-esque investor presentation setting. The players’ concept was the Shelves mobile app, connecting actual store inventory, based on someone’s locale, with the ability to purchase before the product is sold out.
Black shared his comparisons of performing the exercise to playing in the NBA.
“It’s very similar in that we have a crowd audience that we have to perform in front of. I’ve played in front of 16,000 people who put a lot of pressure on me, especially from the organization that I play for,” he said. “So that once we go show the business model to someone, that’s like the game, that’s the finished product, and it’s well-functioning because we did all this groundwork to lay the foundation for it.”
Looking ahead, Black is thinking generations beyond his own legacy. The upcoming college graduate not only wants to build upon the success his father has had, but, like Bridgeman, he also envisions his children one day continuing the family tradition.
“My thing is, just take it to the next level,” he said. “My dad played basketball, went to college for a year. That was his career; he never went pro. I played basketball; I went pro. I’m in a better position than what he was. I’m very fortunate to have an opportunity to come to these programs and meet these people. My dad never had the opportunity to learn. And I hope my son takes it to the next level. Whatever you want to do, be great at it.”