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John Starks is used to being an underdog. He attended four different colleges in four years. Despite not being drafted by an NBA team, he never gave up on his dream to play professional basketball. He was cut after one season with the Golden State Warriors, but then went on to become an NBA All-Star with the New York Knicks. He also holds the record for the most career 3-pointers made in Knicks history.
Since retiring from the NBA after the 2002 season with over 10,000 points in his 13-year career, Starks has been just as busy off the court. In addition to his involvement with the Knicks as Alumni Relations and Fan Development Advisor, he is a Partner in Custom Fuel Pizza, which has locations in Harlem and Washington, D.C. Customers can choose their own crust, sauce, cheese, and other toppings for their pizza.
Starks told CNBC that he never thought he would get into the pizza business, but a few things changed that. He said he was "blown away by the taste and the ability to make a good pizza in two minutes and thirty seconds." He invested in the business with his late former Knicks teammate Anthony Mason. He now hopes to expand the pizzeria soon.
Starks is also a Partner in Zipway, an athletic apparel company, which has products available on Amazon and at Kohl's and Wal-Mart. If that's not enough, he's also involved in The Total Body Board, a sports equipment startup. The signature product is a single piece of fitness equipment that allows users to do an unlimited number of exercises consisting of cardio, muscle building and balance training.
Perhaps even more impressive is Starks' latest endeavor, which now involves sharing his business knowledge with high school students in New York City. The Knicks and Chase recently launched a new community initiative with the organization BUILD to teach students in under-privileged communities about entrepreneurship. Starks, along with some current Knicks and Chase executives, will work with students from seven schools to create their own business plans. The goal is for the students to win over Knicks and Chase executives on their product. In March, students will present their updated business plan to a panel of Knicks and Chase executives, including Starks, who will act as judges to decide on the best business plans.
"We're just trying to get kids to think about what they plan on doing after school and that whatever job they end up doing they can transition into building their own company," Starks told CNBC.
Starks added that his number one piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to make sure you talk to people who can help you. He said, "You also have to be comfortable with the ins and outs of the business you are getting involved in. You can do whatever you want to do in life as long as you focus on the positives and surround yourself with the right people."
When asked if he would ever like to get into coaching basketball, Starks didn't rule it out, but said he'd like to focus on his businesses for now and helping others get on the right career path. And that's a big win for some very lucky high school students.