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Ex-NBA player’s sportswear company challenging Nike, Adidas, Reebok

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Lanny Smith actively black
Actively Black founder Lanny Smith. Photo/Click2Houston
  • Lanny Smith always felt the need to challenge sportswear companies like Reebok, Adidas and Nike
  • He briefly played for Sacramento Kings before knee surgery ruined it all
  • The 38-year-old founded this company in 2020 as Black People in America protested the death of George Floyd

Throughout his time as a basketball player, Lanny Smith always felt the need to challenge sportswear companies like Reebok, Adidas and Nike which is why he founded Actively Black.

The 38-year-old founded this company in 2020 as Black People in America protested the death of George Floyd. Floyd was choked to death by police officer Derek Chauvin as he wore a sheepish smile on his face while his knee pressed Floyd’s neck on the ground.

As the chief executive of Actively Black, Smith hoped to invest in and promote Black communities through the Sportswear company.


Two major incidents, 11 years apart birthed a black-owned sportswear company. The origins of Actively Black go back to 2009, one month after Smith signed a deal with the Sacramento Kings. A knee injury put his NBA aspirations on hold.

Smith in his recovery from a knee surgery decided to become an entrepreneur. His thinking was that being an entrepreneur in this sector would replace the typical motivational slogans on sportswear in the Nike style with religious teachings. Online support from professional sportsmen like Stephen Curry helped Active Faith Sports gain traction and expand swiftly.

Lanny Smith NBA

Lanny Smith NBA. Photo/AfroTech

In addition, following Floyd’s death as a result of police brutality against Black people in the US, many multinational corporations made their stand. They at the time issued statements denouncing racism and promising to promote diversity and invest in Black communities.

This challenged Smith, a former basketball player at the University of Houston. He realized that the $170 billion sector was dependent on the Black community culture. Its influence and consumer spending too triggered his sense to work something out.

Looking at history, he felt that all the promises made by these corporations were too hollow for him to grasp.  Smith wanted a sportswear outfit to beat the multibillion-dollar giants at their own game rather than advocating for change within them. That marked the birth of Actively Black.

He told CNBC Make It that the big names in the sportswear sector made colossal profits from Black talent is sports. Yet, he doesn’t see how they gave back to the Black community by re-investing despite the endorsement deals Athletes of colour get from these firms.

“A lot of these sports apparel brands have profited off of Black talent. They have profited off of the consumerism from the Black community. And I felt like they hadn’t adequately reinvested back into the Black community,” he explained.


In 2021 Lanny Smith successfully pushed Actively Black to earn huge revenues of revenues, a year since its inception. He projected the company to hit $30 million in value in by the end of 2021. The company made $5.6 million in revenue that year while promoting a rotating cast of Black designers and donating 10% of sales to organisations that support social justice, mental health, and physical health in American Black communities.

Actively Black was behind Nigeria’s official Olympic costumes for 2022. It also collaborated with Disney in designing “Black Panther”-themed clothes. Golden State Warriors player Stephen Curry rocked one of the company’s apparel to an NBA press conference last year.

Lanny Smith NBA

Lanny Smith NBA. Photo/YouTube

He had an Actively Black hoodie, while former US President Barack Obama wore a watch which Smith’s company collaborated in manufacturing.  Hollywood sensation Lupita Nyong’o also rocked a ‘Black Panther Wakanda Athletics Performance Collection’ outfit designed by the company.

Even with all this success, Lanny Smith is still a million steps behind the leading giants like Adidas and Nike raking in billions of dollars annually. However, Smith’s goal is to have a long-lasting influence on the Black community moving forward.

He says that he employed a proactive mindset in changing this narrative and he is glad that he did.

“I took the mindset that it was time for us to stop asking for a seat at the table. And we were going to build our own table,” he explained.

Smith takes great pride in that his company donated more than $500,000 to different organisations such as Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, The Liberation Fund, Black Kids Code, Our Own, and Families United in 2022.

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, but an outgoing sports writer with focus on tennis, athletics, football, motorsports and NBA.

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