; EARLY DREAMS
Since I was 7, I had dreamed of playing in the
NBA. After my junior year at the University
of Houston, I was projected to go as high as
the first or second round of the NBA draft.
Then I decided to stay in school. During
one of the last practices before the season
began, I was finishing a layup when a
teammate ran underneath me. I landed
awkwardly and a bone in my foot snapped
in half. There were complications, and an
infection. Doctors saved my foot, but they
said I’d never play in college again—or the
pros. But my mom always said, “If God has
something planned for you, regardless of
the obstacles you encounter, it will happen.”
I did everything to get back in shape,
and got signed by the Sacramento Kings.
; EYE ON THE BALL
Mainstream sporting-goods stores
said they couldn’t carry us, because it was
faith-based. Big Christian retailers
wouldn’t—they said it was too expensive.
That became a blessing: We’ve focused on
e-commerce and social media, where the
world is going. Last year, a Christian retailer
that had turned us down came back. In
three and a half months, we did $2.4 million
with that retailer—then it went out of
business. But we’re on pace to be where we
were last year. Sometimes, you don’t understand the storms you’re going through until
you come out the other side. I understand
now why my journey has led me to this.
; LEAP OF FAITH
To walk into an NBA locker room and see
a jersey with my name on it was my lifelong
dream come true. Then, right before the
season, one of the big men fell onto my
knee during practice. I tore my articular
cartilage. My career was over. I was angry
at God. I prayed and begged him, “Your will
be done, not mine. What would you have
me do?” Maybe a day later, while I was
still laid up from surgery, this idea came
to me: Create another Nike, but have
it be faith-based. Have messages on
the products that glorify God. Use athletic
apparel as a platform to share the faith.
People laughed at me. They didn’t see the
vision. But Steph Curry put in seed money.
So did Anthony Tolliver.
INC.500 ; BUILD
An Athlete's Second Act
LANNY SMITH Active Faith Sports
; Three-year growth 2,586.1; 2016 revenue ;;.; ;;;;;;;
Photograph by Nils Ericson
Lanny Smith, wearing his
company’s sportswear in
his hometown of Houston,
can still conjure up some of
his old tricks on the court.