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November 27, 2018

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Ep. 1: How Baron Davis & Dino Smiley Became Lifesavers

November 27, 2018

Two-time NBA All-Star Baron Davis and Drew League Founder Dino Smiley join Carly for a conversation about how Baron became the “Dream King,” and how Dino is using basketball to save lives.

About this Episode:

Carly sat down with Baron and Dino in Baron's "Storytelling Room" in his Santa Monica offices for a conversation about seeing possibilities despite difficult circumstances. They discuss:

  • How Baron and Carly met and formed an unlikely connection

  • Baron's difficult upbringing and the two most influential people in his life. 

  • The difference between having a million dollars and having a million dollar mind

  • What Baron always wears around his neck and why

  • How Baron got the nickname "The Dream King"

  • Why Baron Davis decided to stay in his hometown of Los Angeles to play at UCLA, despite offers from the best schools in the country

  • What the Drew League is, how it was created, and how Dino brokered a deal with local gangs to protect the leagues and the players

  • How the Drew League has created the next generation of leaders in the community

  • The value of collaboration to help communities

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About the Guests:

Baron Davis

Baron Davis (@barondavis) is a two-time NBA All-Star and record holder, serial entrepreneur, and businessman. He is one of the original investors in VitaminWater and founder of SLiC Media, No Label, BIG, LA Unified, History of The Game, UWish, and The Black Santa Company. Baron currently plays in the BIG 3 League and has even served as the producer of several acclaimed documentaries including 30 for 30: Sole Man, Crips and Bloods: Made In America, and The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce. 

Dino Smiley

Dino Smiley (@drewleague) is the Founder & Board Director of The Drew League. The Drew League’s goal was to help young people form meaningful relationships on the court that would spill over into the neighborhood, as well as build an institution that would bring top local high school, college, and pro players back to the community. It plays host to Southern California’s toughest competition, attracting streetball legends, collegiate athletes, and several NBA stars.




Today’s two-for-one example, featuring people closest to the problem leading by example [0:38]


Carly introduces us to today’s example: Baron Davis & Dino Smiley [0:38]

  • Baron Davis is more than a basketball star – he’s a leader who grew up in difficult circumstances and used his first-hand knowledge (people closest to the problem!) to transform lives and a community

  • He worked with Dino Smiley, who saw possibilities in the community basketball league that he runs (and has run for many, many years) in South Central LA

Casey & Jeffrey talk fall colors and why they’re excited to hear from Carly, Baron, and Dino [3:15]

  • Eric doesn’t know what chartreuse is

  • Baron is “crushing the game” – he’s much more than what you know about him from his NBA days – he is a two-time NBA all-star, basketball analyst on TNT, leader of the Black Santa Company, a media company, and a gaming company [Just in time for Christmas, check out Black Santa here:]

  • Baron’s habit of “crushing the game” started early – with the influence of his grandparents

  • Carly and Baron have very different backgrounds and perspectives, but they agree on the core principles of leadership

  • Dino founded the Drew League in South Central LA, with the intent to serve underprivileged kids and give them an opportunity to do something different – stay out of the gang scene, which threatened to suck many of them in


When Baron met Carly, “great gifts and great tools,” and good grandparenting tips  [6:50]


Baron’s got an amazing resume, but he’s stayed humble [6:50]

  • Baron’s resume is amazing: UCLA basketball star, two-time NBA champion, Black Santa, working in media… despite that incredible resume, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from; he’s leading in his community

  • Baron and Carly meet at Baron’s cool office in Santa Monica – and they’re specifically hanging out in the “storytelling room,” where the team gets together once a week and pitches new ideas

Carly & Baron discuss how they met and what they thought when they first met each other [8:16]

She knew that basketball was a part of my heart, and that was her way of connecting to me.
  • They met at the Social Innovation Summit in Chicago [check it out here:], where both were speaking to non-profit leaders and funders

  • Carly’s staff was nerding out about meeting Baron Davis

  • Baron didn’t know what to expect – he knew Carly was famous, but otherwise he wasn’t quite sure… but her speech won him over

Baron’s grandparents took him in to prevent him from going into the foster care system – and taught him a lot about humility, service, and discipline [11:15]

  • Baron’s parents got into drugs and their family was kicked out of the apartment they were living in

  • His grandparents took in Baron and his younger sister, though they had already done their time raising kids and other grandkids

  • Baron’s grandmother saw basketball as an escape for Baron – a way to use his gifts and become a better, more responsible person


Staying humble, becoming the “Dream King,” and a profound definition of leadership [14:40]


Baron’s passion for lifting others up came from taking the road less traveled; navigating who he wanted to be in it [14:40]

  • Baron didn’t have all of the infrastructure, backing, or support on this journey, so he had to navigate who he wanted to be

  • He always felt connected to the “have-nots” – even with the fame and stardom that came with his professional success

  • At 19, when he got money, Baron became a lonely person; he had millions of dollars, but he didn’t have a million-dollar mind or history

Baron wears two things around his neck – both with a story [17:45]

  • He wears a dream catcher and calls himself the “Dream King” because he followed his dreams and wants to help others follow theirs

  • He wears “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” because he wants others to be uplifted and encouraged when people see him; we don’t have time for that

Carly and Baron agree: leadership is not about title, position or power [19:42]

  • The essence of leadership is to be courageous and have character, to have the humility and empathy to actually collaborate with other people – and to see possibilities

  • Baron had a family who saw possibilities in him – but he also saw possibilities in his own circumstances

  • As a basketball player, Baron wanted to be the best player and the fastest runner – but his end goal was to make everyone better

  • Baron provides a profound definition of leadership: unlocking potential in others, driving disruption, changing culture

  • Carly and Baron agree that true leaders serve others


Introducing Dino, collaborating with some unusual partners, and knowing what should be done [24:13]


Carly introduces our second example of leadership, friend of Baron Davis and founder of the Drew League: Dino Smiley [24:13]

  • Dino has given back to his community through the Drew League, which he now directs and was first associated with in 1973 [check out the history of the Drew League on their website:]

  • The Drew League started in 1973, on the corner of Firestone and Compton Avenue as a league of six teams, founded by Alvin Willis

  • Dino played in the Drew League as an 8th grader in 1973 and took it over at 23

  • Some people wondered about Dino’s age – but he had been a coach in the Drew League at 15, coaching guys older than him, and was actually the first coach to get a sponsor

Dino saw possibilities in the circumstances around him [27:13]

  • His sponsorship led to uniforms for his team (aptly named the Dreamers) – and ultimately to sponsorships and uniforms for the rest of the teams in the league; he set a standard

  • The league eventually grew from six teams to 26; people now come from the NBA, overseas, elite colleges and high schools

  • And despite the fame and success, he’s stayed in the same neighborhood where he grew up – right by Drew Middle School, where everything started

Growing the league to its current size took real and meaningful collaboration – though it was often hard [29:09]

  • “You’ve got to talk to everyone and hope that they can see the same dream that you have and the same message that you’re trying to send”

  • People began to see success – the community was changing, violence ceased

  • When the Drew League moved, Dino knew one of the first things he had to do was go talk to people who hadn’t yet seen the league in action in their communities; he had to go speak to the gangs in the surrounding areas

  • It takes a lot of humility to collaborate successfully

One of the keys to collaboration for Baron is to understand the DNA of the person he wants to work with [32:54]

  • When he goes in to work with a team, brand, or person – he tries to understand the goals and values

  • It has to stay a humble negotiation; you have to lay your stuff on the table first and ask: “How can we work on something that’s going to get us both a win?”

  • Dino shares how Baron “walked the walk” on this: he always came home and did things for the community, who knew this should be done without having to be asked

  • He knew those that because someone did the same thing for him


Tragedy, Courage, and Sacrifice [35:15]

Dino shares a heartbreaking story of how a tragedy showed him the urgency of unlocking the potential in those around you [35:15]

  • Dino once worked with a young man who was a good kid, but who got to a point where he was listening to older gang members

  • Dino worked with him and they had decided to meet up on a Sunday; when the kid never showed up, Dino followed up and learned that he had been gunned down the night before

  • So the next young man he encountered like that, he told him their conversation couldn’t wait – it had to happen right away

  • That next young man was named Ernest and he’s now blossomed into a father and a leader

Baron shares a story publicly for the first time, about the courage required to make a difficult choice [39:20]

When I look back at it, I’d much rather sacrifice being the greatest of all time to open up the floodgates for opportunities like these
  • Baron struggled with the decision of where to play college basketball: UCLA, Kansas, or Duke

  • He knew that if he went to play for Coach K at Duke, he would fully unlock his own potential as a basketball star; he could lose himself fully in the basketball world – and Kansas offered a similar opportunity

  • He had to decide – would he stay home with his problems and friends? And ultimately, that was what decided it: he wanted that task

Carly shares why she thinks of Baron and Dino as leaders – and Baron shares why he’s voting for Carly [42:21]

  • Listeners may think that Dino is here because he runs the Drew League and that Baron is here because he’s a famous NBA star and basketball legend

  • But they are here because they are leaders: they display courage and character and they are incredible collaborators

  • Baron shares that he appreciates being invited by Carly to share her platform, which he believes is a testament to true character

“There is not a lot left to say,” and waving the wheat [45:26]

Jeffrey and Casey discuss the key lessons about problem-solving, sacrifice, and leadership from the conversation between Baron, Dino, and Carly [45:26]

  • Baron’s built an incredible brand for himself; you think you know what you’re going to get when you talk to him, but his perspective is incredible

  • Specifically, the incredible perspective he must have had at 18, to look around the stands and see the next generation, and decide he was passing up Duke

  • One important lesson is that you have to be up for the challenge – see it, realize it, want it

  • Another notable piece about Baron and Dino’s story is that they were uniquely positioned to take on the leadership roles that they did because they understood the problems firsthand, having grown up in those circumstances

  • We encourage listeners to reflect on what problems in front of them are they uniquely positioned to solve? What do they uniquely understand?



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