How Joe Chapman went from professional basketball player to successful entrepreneur.

If you want to be successful in life it is important to surround yourself with other successful people. People who work hard, hold themselves to high standards and are continuously learning and growing. People like my friend Joe Chapman.

Joe is the Founder of Chapman Basketball Academy. CBA is a training academy in Milwaukee and Chicago for athletes of all ages and abilities who are dedicated to improving their basketball skills. Which makes Joe Chapman the poster boy for turning your passion into your profession.

The $2 Million Shot

I knew from the first time I saw Joe in action that he really knew how to coach basketball. Tonight, people across America will see. Because as a side project Joe decided to coach his fellow Marquette University alum in The Basketball Tournament.  TBT is a prestigious, 64-team basketball tournament with an eye-popping $2-million, winner-take-all prize. It works just like March Madness, only the players are no longer in college. And there is no March.

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Joe Chapman coaching his Golden Eagle team on their way to the TBT Championship.

Tonight Joe will be coaching his team in the championship game in Chicago for a chance at the $2 million prize. You can catch the game on ESPN at 9pm ET. You can catch my Joe Chapman story below.

Starting My Own Business

I started my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry in 2016 in Atlanta. A couple of former clients approached me about starting my own business. I jumped at the chance like Carl Lewis. About that same time in Milwaukee, Joe Chapman was also becoming an accidental entrepreneur.

The Cliff Notes On Joe Chapman

Joe grew up on the south side of Chicago and took to basketball at an early age. While he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he had something even more valuable. He had natural talent and a strong drive to continuously improve himself. Joe soaked up the lessons from his youth and high school coaches. He learned that basketball is a team game, and experienced great team success, winning an Illinois State Championship at Bloom High School.

Marquette University

Joe also experienced great individual success, and was named a McDonald’s All-American his senior year. He went on to play college basketball for Marquette University where he was part of the storied Tom Crean-coached team that reached the Final Four in 2003. That team included a bumper crop of basketball standouts including Dwayne Wade, Steve Novak and Travis Diener.

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Joe drawing up a big play at a big moment.

Professional Career

After graduating from Marquette with a degree in Communications & Media, Chapman played professional basketball overseas for 11 years. As a result, he accumulated basketball coaching techniques from all over the world. Which turned Joe into a walking encyclopedia of basketball knowledge. (For the younger readers, an encyclopedia is like Wikipedia in book form). Perhaps even more valuable, the language barrier he faced with many of his overseas teammates forced Joe to become fluent in universal, non-verbal forms of communication, feedback and motivation.

The Spark

In 2016 while back in Milwaukee during his summer offseason, Joe was approached by fellow Marquette alum, Kim Marotta and fellow Marquette basketball alum, Corey Wolf, about putting his library of basketball coaching knowledge to use coaching some very talented high schoolers in Mequon, Wisconsin. What started as private lessons soon expanded to group lessons packed with aspiring young basketball players.

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Two of Joes first players. Amanda Hooks (l) is now playing at Carroll University and Chloe Marotta (r) became the #1 ranked player in Wisconsin and now plays at Marquette.

The Decision

The demand for Joe’s time and expertise was so great that he was forced to make a difficult decision: go back to Europe in the fall for the next basketball season as planned, or fully commit to coaching and training the next generation of basketball stars. After much deliberation with his wife Carolyn, Joe decided to transition from playing basketball professionally to coaching, teaching and inspiring others through the game of basketball.

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CBA Is Born

Joe soon had a name for his new adventure. Chapman Basketball Academy. And it was successful from the very start. CBA attracted high profile high school basketball players in Wisconsin who wanted to take their game to the next level.

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Joe working with dedicated athletes on a Saturday night.

Joe’s ability to develop basketball players began attracting a younger and broader audience. CBA began rapidly expanding through word of mouth, and the sound of dribbling throughout gyms on Milwaukee’s North Shore.

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Joe encouraging his athletes to push themselves to reach the next level.

CBA meets The Weaponry

Joe and I crossed paths when he was approached about coaching the Homestead Basketball Club’s 6th grade girls basketball team. My family and I had recently moved to Mequon Wisconsin, and my daughter Ava was on that team.

I quickly saw just how talented Joe was. But as I got more exposure to CBA I couldn’t help but notice areas where my team at The Weaponry could help Joe polish and promote his business.

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Joe coaching his HBC team to a championship. They got trophies, not $2 million.

Coaching The Coach

Following HBC and AAU team practices, after CBA training sessions and while traveling for tournaments, Joe and I spent a lot of time talking about how we could better market Chapman Basketball Academy.  I found that Joe was as coachable and open to learning as any client I have ever worked with. Which I expect is the reason he soaked up so much basketball knowledge in Europe, South America and Asia.

 

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Joe and I before the CBA Brand Makeover.

Working with Joe and his wife Carolyn, The Weaponry did a complete rebranding of the Chapman Basketball Academy.  We created foundational elements like new logos, and tight brand standards. Knowing that business cards should be a critical part of CBA marketing, we created a series of 10 different business card designs, each intended to start a different conversation with coaches, athletes and parents.

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One of the new logos The Weaponry created for CBA.

We created portable standup banners that Joe could set up at any gym CBA coached at to instantly brand the space as Chapman Basketball Academy. We created logo and gear designs for the stable of AAU teams under the CBA banner. We explored advertising and sponsorship opportunities. As well as unique collaborations and co-branded experiences with other high profile coaches and athletes.

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Joe and athlete Kamorea Arnold who already has 10 Division I scholarship offers before entering high school.

Joining The Board

A year ago Joe invited me to join the CBA board of directors, and I gladly accepted. I am proud to help him achieve his lofty vision through both marketing efforts, and as a close and trusted advisor.

Watching The Coach In Action

I typically get to watch Joe coaching a couple of times each week. It is fun to watch him work with the youth of Milwaukee, including my daughter Ava and son Magnus. But tonight it will be exciting to watch Joe coaching on national TV, with my kids on the couch next to me.

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Joe at a CBA clinic in Chicago, with another of the new CBA logos.

Key Takeaway

I hope we get to see Joe and his Golden Eagles team grab the $2-million prize tonight. But Joe has already won. By making it to the TBT championship game he has taught all the boys and girls Joe coaches across Wisconsin and Chicago that the techniques, teamwork and attitude that he emphasizes every day works at every level. And not just in basketball. But in everything you do in life.

Good Luck Joe! We’ll be cheering for you from Milwaukee!

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The latest, greatest life lesson from sports.

Most of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life have come from sports. They come from the successes and failures I have experienced personally, and from the countless sporting stories I’ve witnessed. The lessons have come from all levels of athletic competition. And from sports ranging from horse racing to floor hockey. #Epic3rdGradeGymClassComeBackStory.

I have been collecting life lessons from sports since I was a little boy. From The Miracle On Ice, I learned that miracles really do happen. From Kirk Gibson and Ray Rice I learned that sometimes all it takes is one swing. Billy Buckner taught me that there is no such thing as a routine ground ball. Steve Bartman taught me that people love a scapegoat (my wife Dawn was at that Cubs game and called me, afraid for his life). Buster Douglas taught me to take every opponent seriously. And my New England Patriots taught me that even when there is a 99.5% chance that you will lose, you can still win. I wrote about that in The most inspiring statistic in Super Bowl history.

My Greatest Lesson

In high school I learned my own sports lessons through football and track and field, with an emphasis on the field. But the greatest lesson I ever learned came in the fall of my senior year back in Hanover, New Hampshire. During an ordinary football practice, 4 weeks into the season, two of my teammates crashed into my left knee, tearing both my ACL and MCL. If you are lucky enough not to know these acronyms, they refer to two of the critical ligaments that hold your knee together.

Not only was my knee crushed, so were my spirits. But following knee reconstruction surgery at the end of October, I set my sights on coming back to compete in the spring track season. Competing was a long shot. But I was 100% determined to make it happen. I rehabilitated my knee completely on my own. I didn’t need any outside motivation. I was obsessed.

The Comeback

Just 7 months after surgery I completed my unlikely comeback. At the New England High School Track and Field Championships in East Hartford, Connecticut, I won the boys discus title. Even better, I set a new New Hampshire state record in the discus. A record that would stand for 12 years. As a result, I learned that determination is your most valuable asset. 

The University of Wisconsin

That fall I enrolled at The University of Wisconsin, where I continued my track and field career. My senior year I became the 4th best discus thrower in school history. Even better, our team won its second consecutive Big 10 Track & Field Championship.

But there was another significant event that happened just before my senior year at Wisconsin that feels even more relevant this morning. That’s when the great Dick Bennett was hired as Wisconsin’s head men’s basketball coach.

The Bennetts

Coach Bennett is a wonderful man and a brilliant coach. He came to Madison from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he had created an off-broadway powerhouse of a basketball program. The shining star of the UWGB Fighting Phoenix was Dick’s son Tony, who I believe still holds the all-time record for career 3-point shooting percentage.

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Tony Bennett, pre-dab.

I loved seeing Dick Bennett around the McClain Center, our athletic facility in Madison. He always had a pleasant greeting for this unknown track participant. And I had high respect for everything he did for the basketball program. In fact, he was the 4th head coach for the Badgers in my 5 years of college. Just 4 years later, in 2000, he would lead the team to the Final Four.

During my senior season, and the following summer I would often see young and handsome Tony Bennett in the McClain Center weight room. His wife Laurel would often work out there too. I regularly talked with Laurel, and learned that she was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and went to LSU. Her accent was as cute as she was. We talked about some of my favorite memories from competing in track meets at LSU. Including the tiger cage right next to the discus cage, the crawfish, Lou’s Fries, Pleasant Hall and my favorite track and field venue on earth.

Virginia Basketball

Based on my casual acquaintance with the Bennetts, I followed Tony’s career closely, and always pulled for him as if he were one of my own. I was thrilled to see him land the job as the University of Virginia’s head basketball coach in 2009. In fact I began rooting for this seemingly random school’s men’s basketball program. Tony’s rise in Charlottesville came quickly. Which would set Tony and his team up for a historical fall.

The Loss

In 2018, with a 31-2 record, Virginia earned the highly coveted #1 seed in the men’s championship tournament. Everyone who has ever filled out a March Madness bracket knows that you never pick a #16 seed to upset a #1. Because it had never happens. Never-Ever. In fact, it had never happened in the history of the NCAA tournament. Until last year.

Following what had been a dream season, Virginia suffered a nightmarish loss to UMBC. Most people had no idea what those initials even stood for. It was not the University of Michigan-Battle Creek. It was actually the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. But it could have been the University of My Butt Crack for all I knew of this team.

Yet suddenly, the UMBC Retrievers were the ultimate dragon slayers. They did what people said no one could ever do. As a result of their victory, Coach Tony Bennett and his Virginia team would have to carry the burden of their unprecedented defeat for the rest of their lives.

What Happened Next

But Bennett’s response to the unfathomable loss was composed, dignified and gracious. He would later refer to the loss as a painful gift. The Virginia team, lead by Bennett, then did the hardest thing in sports. Perhaps the hardest thing in life. After crashing and burning, they rose again from the ashes, like a fighting Phoenix. They used their historic loss as fuel. And they powered forward with new resolve.

Another Chance

The 2019 regular season would prove to be every bit as successful as 2018 for the Virginia men’s basketball program. The team went 29-3 during the regular season and ended the year ranked 2nd in the country. They once again won a #1 seed in the NCAA Division 1 Championship Tournament. And this time, the whole country watched to see if they would once again exit the Big Dance under historical circumstances.

Unfortunately, it soon appeared they were doomed to repeat the past. In the first half of their matchup against 16th-ranked Gardner-Webb they were down by 14 points, before pulling out of their nosedive, and rallying to a 71-56 win. They then won a series of heart stopping victories over Oregon, Purdue and Auburn.

In the unbelievable win over Auburn in the semi finals, Virginia was down by 2 points with 0.6 seconds on the clock. But a foul on a 3-point shot attempt sent Virginia’s Kyle Guy to the free throw line, where he coolly hit all 3 free throws to win the game and send his team to the National Championship.

The National Championship

Last night in the title game, Virginia played like champions. So did their rivals, Texas Tech. The result was a thrilling 68-68 tie at the end of regulation. But in the overtime period, Bennett’s team showed their true character, pouring on a dominating performance when it was needed most. When the final buzzer buzzed, the scoreboard read Virginia 85, Texas Tech 77.

The New Lesson

And just like that, the world of sports had another lesson for its followers. It came from the too-good-to-be true story of the 2018-2019 Virginia men’s basketball team. The team that suffered the worst defeat in the history of college basketball, and then bounced like no one has ever bounced before. And in just one year, this team of character, grit, brotherhood and respect rebounded to win a national championship. The first in school history.

Tony Bennet has a belief that he often references: ‘The most faithful wins.’ Well, I for one believe. I believe that if you believe in yourself, have faith in your abilities, in your teammates, in the power of hard work, sacrifice and determination, and in a higher power to strengthen you, great things will come your way.

Key Takeaway

Bad things will happen to you. This is a simple fact. But it is how you respond to the setbacks that makes all the difference. If you see your losses as painful gifts, and not prepackaged excuses, you have already won. Because you have put yourself on the right path for future success.

Have faith that if you do all the right things, the right things will come to you. Virginia’s championship now serves as a monumental reminder of this lesson. It’s a wonderful story that will be revisited for decades, as coaches, parents and friends console athletes after devastating defeats. Because with the right mindset a loss is not a loss. It is a painful gift that can positively change your life forever.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.