The first African American woman to own a men’s professional basketball team, Alexi Levi was the General Manager, CEO and Owner of the Las Vegas Stars Basketball Team with the International Basketball League (IBL) in 2007 and 2008. The Las Vegas Stars earned the IBL’s record for scoring more than 200 points in a game and won the Southwest championship in 2008.
Alexis has since continued to lead the Las Vegas Stars as a traveling team and remains in the sports management industry as a sports executive and agent. She is also a popular speaker and corporate trainer, earning such honors as Ebony Magazine’s ‘Top 150 Most Powerful African Americans’ and being featured in a national advertising campaign by Pepsi.
Her recently released autobiography, Alexis Levi: from Boardroom to the Locker Room, shares the personal details behind her journey of becoming a successful entrepreneur as well as a ‘First.’ It’s a fascinating story. While she dealt with her share of life’s setbacks, “the early death of a parent, a loved one on drugs, spouse abuse, a stalker, a near-death experience, divorce and single parenthood,” Alexis refused to let any of these obstacles, nor her gender or race, keep her from reaching her goals.
She is quick to acknowledge that she did not do it, alone. “It took a lot of faith, hope and prayers, along with encouragement from friends and family members.” Religion was an important part of her support system in early life and in directing her later business path. From her start as a registered nurse to her move into marketing and earning her MBA, numerous entrepreneurial ventures, becoming an entertainment and then a sports management executive, Alexis saw opportunities that allowed her to fulfill her destiny.
Being an Advocate for Athletes
As CEO, she was the lead on business development, marketing, recruiting and hiring. As Owner, she took care of the finances, investors, fundraising, sponsors and endorsements. Being the GM, however, was her favorite responsibility. She had the opportunity to run the tryouts—a real highlight, along with dealing with contracts, arranging travel, team schedules and, of course, attending the games.
“The most rewarding part was being able to assist these young men in furthering their careers. I made decisions that would sometimes cost us more than what was required,” she says, referring to having the teams travel to both the West and East coast for games, “but I felt it was worth it to obtain additional exposure of our players in front of coaches from other countries.”
Alexis’s mission in starting the Las Vegas Stars was closely related to her role as an advocate for athletes (as a parent of two sons who played basketball and as a sports executive and agent). “The Las Vegas Stars is basically a development team in preparation of playing overseas or for the NFL.” While she briefly dreamed of the Las Vegas Stars taking over the world, making her a billionaire—the results of which she’s proudest would be the players who have moved on to greater acclaim. Those include Dejaun Tate, China Basketball League; Matt Winan, Orlando Magic Practice Team; Willie Hall, Budapest and Trevor Lawrence, Harlem Globetrotters Travel Team, among others.
Lessons from the Boardroom into the Locker Room
Part of her mission was to bring the lessons that she learned in the boardroom into the locker room. Better treatment of players by management was one key issue, especially needed at the high school and college level, in her opinion. “I have seen coaches scream, holler, curse and throw articles at players—Behavior so extreme that it made me feel bad as an innocent bystander.”
Coaches, in an ideal world, should be examples of good sportsmanship and act as mentors to their team, much as a senior executive from the boardroom mentors young executives. “A player can still be motivated if you treat him as an adult and you communicate in a respectful manner.”
Still, there were basic differences that needed to be respected between the boardroom and the locker room. “The boardroom is where a team of executives with decision-making power gather. Not everyone agrees, but it is understood that negotiation can take place at points of disagreement. The locker room, in contrast, is where the coach or GM runs the show. They execute a plan for the team to follow.”
Given her boardroom experience, where negotiation is expected, Alexis realized that the skills that she developed there were still applicable in the locker room as the team’s GM. “After getting over the shock of being able to walk into the locker room, my ability to listen, to provide constructive criticism and suggestions regarding major decisions, at the appropriate time was accepted well.”
When Alexis started receiving accolades, she said that it felt odd and as if a huge responsibility had been placed upon her. “Some athletes say that they didn’t want to be a role model—that all they wanted to do was play. At first, I felt the same way, as I was just trying to figure things out and run my business. I soon learned that this sort of attention is a privilege, an honor, and a blessing—one that I will never forget.”
One of the more moving scenes in her autobiography is when she receives a letter from a young girl who is writing a black history month essay about her. She takes the time to call this very surprised fan and answer the girl’s questions for her school project.
“We have to remember that we are chosen, for whatever reason, to be a person who lives part of their lives in the public eye. If you can see the positive side of being able to have some effect on another individual’s life, I think that it is for the best.”
It seemed to her that all athletes have looked up to other athletes while they were growing up. She hates to see an athlete act as if he or she doesn’t have the time for their fans who buy the tickets and merchandise that support them. “On the flip side, fans have to understand that there is a way to approach a famous person, especially athletes. If this person is with family, it might be a good idea to ask to take a photo and then move on. Most athletes don’t have a lot of time with their families, so that it always good to be considerate.”
Things are shifting into high gear for Alexis, right now. With contacts around the world, there is always a new deal on the horizon. She has accepted an executive sports position of which she is not yet at liberty to announce. There are talks of a Las Vegas Stars reality show and a Hollywood movie. The American International Pro Basketball Association (AIPBA) is in its development stages, but she supports “this much needed entity that will assist in developing players, who are trying to get into the pros, for years to come.”
Additionally, Alexis is the director of the National High School Basketball Association in Las Vegas, Nevada, a commitment that keeps her busy over the summer with youth camps and clinics. She also runs a nonprofit organization, Sports for Life, which is focused on certifying coaches to better understand the risks of sudden heart attacks for athletes.
The Las Vegas Stars have been asked to play in the Global Cup at ESPN World Wide of Sports and there will be tryouts in the near future for the 2013-2014 traveling team. This is not the last that we’ve heard of Alexis Levi.
Alexis Levi: from the Boardroom to the Locker Room is a riveting autobiography about the first African American woman to own a men’s professional basketball team. This is a thrilling true life story of a modern day hero who risks all to fulfill her dream of entering the male dominated industry of sports. Alexis’ book may be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and major bookstores everywhere. Publisher: AuthorHouse (February 6, 2013), ISBN-10: 1477275282, ISBN-13: 978-1477275283, $13.95 paperback, $3.99 eBook.