"I used to get tattoos when I was playing basketball. Towards the end of my basketball career, I just started getting more of them. The more I got, the more I was around the tattoo shops. I was at a friend's tattoo shop pretty much everyday. I started off getting them here and there. I liked the atmosphere, the people, you know. It was a different feel and a social environment that I liked. I really wanted to be around it and it felt good, I can't really explain it. It inspired me in a way that I could actually do this. You know, I'm an artist and I can draw, I just never took it serious. When I was younger, I used to draw tennis shoes and stuff like that. When I was in college, I took an art class and my art teacher use to tell my coach that, 'Hey, this guy is really talented'. The coach would tell me what my teacher would say and all but I wasn't serious about it. If I would've known that I would be tattooing, I would have taken art more seriously and would have been an art major. But at that time, it was basketball. Now, it's tattooing. When you get caught up in something, you're not really focused on anything else. That's really how it came about. I dibbled and dabbled with it. Once I started talking to my friend, who was doing tattoos, I told him that I was thinking about pursuing it. He didn't think that I could draw, so I took a magazine and drew something out of it. He was like, 'Man, you can draw!'. I was like, 'Yeah, man, I think I'm gonna try to do this.". I started drawing everyday. I would go to his shop and be over there watching and drawing. I was real intrigued with tattooing. I knew it was something serious when I was going home to draw. I got into it and they started teaching me things. After a couple of months, I ordered my equipment and I was on track to start. I was so anxious. I took it to my house and once I started tattooing out of my house, the rest was history. I was in a shop within less than a year. That's unheard of. I never stepped foot inside someone else's shop to work as an artist. I started on my own and that's what created a monster. Once I got started on my own, nothing could stop me. I could do it.
I always wanted to be a business owner but didn't know what I wanted to do. Especially with playing basketball, that took all my energy away from everything else. I wasn't thinking about it. You know how people always tell you to have a backup plan? I was like, 'Shit, I'ma make sure this plan works, first'. Fuck a back up plan because once you start thinking like that, you're out of there. Not saying that you're not supposed to have one, but for me, if I do that, it's over. Am I going to put that effort in?
That mindset was already in me, when I started playing basketball. I didn't make the middle school basketball team and then once I got to high school, that's when it started. To be honest, my brother and my cousins were inspiration to me. I'm not gonna say that I was headed down a bad path but I wasn't on the right one. I wasn't a bad person, but I was doing typical stuff that kids do, like cutting school and doing different stuff like that. My brother and my cousins were in high school when I was still middle school. They were already playing ball and on T.V. I wanted to do that. I would get into it with the coaches and tell them that I didn't need them and that I would play when I got to high school. Once I got to high school, I was inspired by my brother and cousins. I wanted to be like them. I made the freshmen team and wheels started turning then.
I come from Clarksdale, I was from the projects, man. Not saying that if you come from the projects that you can't be successful, but I didn't have those role models around me. I didn't grow up with a doctor in the house. I didn't grow up with someone that was doing something professional, that's embedded in you, knowing that you are going to do this and go to college. We didn't have that structure. In our house, we were only worried about what's going on right now. You're not thinking about what somebody else is doing. You see that shit, that's T.V. That's not real. We just didn't think like that. When I got to high school, that was a time for me. It got to a point where people started recognizing my talent and that felt good. With having the talent that I had and people noticing, it just felt good. That was my motivation. When I got to junior year, I had colleges looking at me and offering me scholarships. I never even thought that I would go to college.
Once I got to college, I realized that playing ball made me who I am so I had to give all my loyalty to Spalding, that basketball. I was going to the league. Why not think about the highest level? If you're gonna do something, do it all the way! I wanted to take my talents somewhere else. That's where the basketball accolades came from, with the Globetrotters, playing professional in different leagues, and going over there to Mexico.
College wasn't really for me. It wasn't that I couldn't do the work, I just didn't like it. For that reason, I had to make it happen, no matter what and I did that. I made it to the Denver Nuggets in '03. When I came out, I got a workout. I was with Melo, it was his first year. We were in rookie camp together. It was fifteen free agents that would practice outside the summer league team. They took three players from those fifteen that would practice with the team and I was one of those three. We were doing two a days. I almost made it to summer league. I came in when they were rebuilding and it kind of messed me around because they wanted experience. That's what I figured out and that's what the coaches were telling me. They were wanting to find more experienced guards. I had to understand that. That motivates me because I was able to accomplish something in my life that a lot of people will never get a chance to do. Even though I didn't get to play in the NBA, I made it to that point. So that tells you about my personality. I wasn't the best player that came out of Louisville. I had a good talent and I was athletic as shit but it was my mentality that took me as far as I went. There was a lot of people that graduated with me, in my class, and they didn't make it as far at all. They were gifted but didn't make it to where I was.
Now this is a whole new arena for me. I didn't know what it took to be a business owner. I was in the trenches on my own. Basketball got me into the position to where I'm at now. It made me think that if you work hard, shit will happen. You know you hear that shit when you're younger but it doesn't resonate until you do it and then you see what happens after you do it. I was like, 'How do I translate that into business?'. I knew what basketball took. That's going to the gym and putting in work. Now, I'm trying to figure out how to do it in business. It's about how you outthink and outwork somebody by making things happen. You can't make anything happen if you're just talking about it. It's all about the idea, the plan and then you execute.
I'm most creative when I'm not busy. I start to think why is my business slowing down. Is it me? Is it my shop? Is it my work? I just start going down the line and evaluate and make things better. I just re-did my shop last year. If you have a business, there's no way you're not competing. There's no way. I'm a competitor at heart. I gotta figure out ways to compete. I don't have another artist in here, right now, but I gotta get somebody in here this year. It will take a little more pressure off myself.
My advice to anyone starting a business is to make sure that you love what you do. Make sure you have a passion for it. I got it tatted on my ribs. It says: Living a life without passion isn't living, it's existing. If you're living on earth and you're just working a job that you hate, you're living in hell, somewhat of a prison. Basically, somebody's telling you when to shit, when to eat and when to go to sleep. They're controlling your life. I feel like I'm going to live my life. I did it for so long. I stopped playing basketball when I was 28, so it's kind of hard to go back and work for somebody when I've been controlling my destiny my whole life. The longest I worked for somebody at a job was for about six months. I hated it. I hated working. That was the worst thing ever. I knew I was going to have my own business.
Have a passion for what you do. You gotta love it. If you don't love it, you'll put it to the side. If you have a passion for what you're doing, you could be the best at it. You think P. Diddy and Jay-Z don't love what the fuck they do? They would do it for free. You gotta love what you do. If you don't, you won't be good at it. " - Mone T., Owner of Tat It Up, California