After having NBA dreams derailed, former UH standout reaches Olympic games

MISSOURI CITY, Texas (KTRK) -- A Missouri City native and former standout at Hightower High School and then later at University of Houston, had one dream: use his talents to reach the highest level of his favorite sport.

"From the age of 5, it was a one-track mind," Lanny Smith admitted Thursday. "It was the NBA for me. I didn't have a plan B or C."

But he had to find one, and fast. Just 33 days after signing his first NBA contract, a knee injury ended Smith's basketball career. After admittedly dealing with depression and embarrassment, Smith quickly pivoted. As we profiled on ABC13, he launched the Active Faith clothing line in 2011. The faith-based sports apparel has customers in 74 countries.

But one country really helped Smith's latest venture take off.

"She could've easily gotten that sponsorship from Nike, Adidas any one of the other giant brands, but she came and asked me," Smith explained.

In late 2020, Smith created Actively Black, a brand that would authentically reinvest back into the Black community. It's a line sported by former President Barack Obama. Only months after its launch, his former University of Houston classmate Dr. Seun Adigun, the flag bearer for Team Nigeria, asked Smith to outfit her country's Olympians in the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"I stayed up until 4 a.m., or whatever it was, to make sure I could watch it live," Smith recalled. "It gave me chills. To see a Black-owned brand, the only Black-owned brand, on the global stage at the winter Olympics was super powerful."

Closer to home, we visited with Smith at ABC13 during a rare stop in Houston. But he's back for a good reason. Two reasons, actually. Thursday is his mother's birthday, and he's also in Houston because he's creating jobs in his hometown.

"I decided it was time to stop outsourcing the fulfillment aspect of the brand," Smith said. "So, I'm back here in Houston scouting some locations for our new warehouse where I'll be able to create jobs and hire some Houstonians. They'll be able to work for Actively Black, and we will be paying more than the Amazon wage for sure."

His NBA dreams were derailed. However, Smith was able to use his talents to reach the highest level of all sports, the Olympic games, and it's bringing him home, too.

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