As a kid growing up playing a sport, the dream of playing the sport professionally is almost always on the back burner of your mind. While there are exceptions, athletes train to make it into the top association of their respective sport. A golfer does not spend hours hitting golf balls hoping to make it to the Web.com tour, while a pitcher does not practice to dominate the Minor League.
This mindset was shown through Johnny Stephene. At 6’1 and 200 pounds, Stephene was a point guard in a running back’s body, and his childhood dream of playing in the NBA seemed one step away after being picked up by a professional basketball team in Mexico. However, Stephene’s dreams were detained by a stress fracture in his left leg later that year.
Realizing that he would not be able to play professionally anymore, Stephene, for the first time, felt a sense of emptiness within him. After all, this was a man who grew up practicing his crossover and moves in his backyard with his shadow. Career ending injuries are nothing new, and while the average athlete would pursue a different profession opposite of their skill, Stephene was different. He decided to take his hard-earned skill, his handles, and use it for his new career.
In 2013, after Instagram’s mobile app released its video feature, Stephene launched his brand HandleLife, which focuses on drills, combo moves, and specific training with NBA players. His ankle-breaking moves coupled by a clean swish jumper has drawn the attention of players of all levels. His workouts are focused on building hand strength, dexterity, and rhythmic sequences, with an overall focus on unique in-game moves and counters. One notable story was the development of Seth Curry, the brother of 2015 & 2016 MVP Stephen Curry. After going undrafted in 2013, Curry was just a shadow of his brother. Teaming up with his former Liberty University teammate Johnny Stephene, Curry saw tremendous improvement in his game, dominating the NBA D-League. Shortly after in 2015, Seth signed a 2-year contract with the Sacramento Kings, a testament to Stephene’s program. Currently, Stephene’s Instagram account, Dribble2Much, has over 1.2 million followers, and Stephene is often featured teaching players such as DeMar DeRozan, Chris Paul, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kevin Durant. Stephene has contracts with Stance socks, the first non-NBA player to do so, and hopes to further expand his HandleLife brand through YouTube videos and camps.
Simply put, Stephene grew up idolizing the game of basketball with the hopes of playing it professionally. Although certain circumstances did not allow him to, he is using his talent and continues to make a living through basketball. Stephene serves as a reminder that dreams will be achieved, just not always through the standard path. Stephene’s ultimate goal? To make HandleLife one day be bigger than Nike.