The sports/entertainment industry is painted as a life of glitz and glamour. But there are often brushes of pain that are erased from elements of the greatest success stories. Sometimes our brightest moments can be overshadowed by hues of darkness and moments of despair.
Popular entertainment executive and sports consultant, Al Weber believes our darkest moments can be the canvas needed for us to re-create our lives into an unimaginable bright future. As a former star student athlete and basketball player, Al adopted a championship mentality that he applies to his business and wellness. He is the CEO of AW Music and Sports Ent.
From sports deals to events, Al has succeeded beyond his own expectations. But his most incredible pride is that he is a survivor, a mentor, and philanthropist. While his life seems glossy and alluring, the Marrero, Louisiana, native is rooted in the humility of his childhood and faith. Life forced him to be humble but ambitious, nevertheless.
Al was once one of the country’s most sought-after high school basketball players. In those days he was in a realm along with Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony. His story plays out like a dramatic award-winning film. A young student-athlete from the hood inherits the love of basketball from his uncle who helped raise him along with his grandmother. Growing up in an era where New Orleans has succumbed to the drug epidemic, everyday life can play out like a war. Each day there is something to be combatted against and survival from the streets or prison is very slim.
Al’s love for basketball initially kept him preoccupied as a young child. He would go to gyms and study the older boys and memorize techniques. Watching and learning. He soaked in every element of basketball, dedicating his time to sports from the age of nine. By the age of fifteen, he had already won a major school championship. Still, his focus on academics and school was a struggle. He is eventually kicked out of school, watching his hoop dreams deflate. He is close to becoming a statistic of New Orlean’s vicious street life cycle until an O.G that he looks up to asks, “what happened to him basketball?”
This conversation would forever change the trajectory of Al Weber’s life. “I was hanging around this guy and he was in the streets. Like most young boys, I looked up to those guys. They had money, the clothes, girls and all of that. They were the ones who were around in our neighborhood. He saw potential in me and an outlook that even I couldn’t see. He told me to get back into high school and keep focusing on my basketball dreams. He showed me how to utilize basketball as my passport out of the hood,” said Al.
Sooner than later Al was back in school. His basketball skills had impressed recruits. He landed himself at the prestigious Mt. Zion college prep school in North Carolina. Known to turn athletes into eventual pros it was the perfect match for Al. He was winning championship games and trying out for the top college recruits. He was with his high school sweetheart. Life was good.
One of Al’s most life-changing moments occurred during that time. The young star became a father, something he cherished. “I was in high school when my son Isiah was born, and it gave me new light and life. I was young but my son motivated me to fully dedicate myself to my dream. I was so excited to be a father,” shared Al. After high school, Al could have gone to UConn or any other top school but chose Alabama instead. Everything seemed perfect. But nothing lasts forever- even happiness.
During his sophomore year, Al’s son, Isiah passed away. This crushed him beyond belief. He had survived many things but this was the personification of pain “When my son died, I lost interest in basketball. I didn’t care as much. I wanted something more stable and to be a provider for my family. At that point, the NBA dream felt like an illusion. I wanted to deal with reality,”
According to therapyforblackmen.org. African Americans are 20% more likely to have serious psychological distress than Whites. Amongst men who have experienced depression or anxiety Black and Hispanic men are (26.4%) less likely to seek therapy and support for their trauma. Al Weber dealt with his grief like most Black men, he just continued going about life. He gave up on basketball without ever understanding that depression had seduced him to. “Looking back, I wish I could have understood grief and trauma better,” Al explains.
Toni Morrison once said, “Certain kinds of trauma visited on peoples are so deep, so cruel, that, unlike money, unlike vengeance, even unlike justice, or rights, or the goodwill of others, only writers can translate such trauma and turn sorrow into meaning, sharpening the moral imagination.”
Coming from poverty shapes you in a way that is different from most people. When you grow up in the stress of certain environments it can make you hard and difficult to understand because as kids, you deal with more trauma than most people face in their lifetime. A lot of that goes without being addressed, diagnosed or understood.
Al quit basketball but basketball never quit him. Years later he ran into his former sports agent, Happy Walters and he says that meeting changed his life. Walters introduced him to the sports consulting business which gave him purpose again. He was able to connect with young athletes from communities just like his and help them build and elevate their dreams as well as be a backbone and support system. Al says Walters was a blessing for him as that is how he got into the business of sports and entertainment. Al’s new path didn’t come free of challenges either as he encountered what Lebron James often speaks about regarding Black representatives and athletes. There is usually pushback that Black Sports Reps face when they are dealing with athletes.
The NCAA’s former “Rich Paul” rule was an example of this. Strangely, many other agendas and examples attempt to debilitate Black sports consultants who don’t have the same upbringing, advantages, or higher education as their counterparts. The sports world is even more competitive off the court. In some instances, Black Sports Reps are defamed and discouraged. Al experienced this in the past but chooses to look forward to the future. I’m learning, I’m growing, and trying to make great decisions for myself and those I encounter and impact. As someone who could have easily become a statistic, Al utilizes his experience to mentor, support, and enrich the lives of Black student-athletes who are trying to rise out of similar situations.
“My biggest life lessons are: Don’t stop believing in yourself, don’t ever give up on yourself, and if you need support don’t be ashamed to ask for it. This is what I tell young people.”
Climbing up the ladder of success after so many twists and turns was no easy task. Al Weber’s journey came with obstacles that most people couldn’t fathom. Only the strong survive in a business that is not for the faint of heart. Al has been navigating through his dreams since he was nine, and he appreciates the lessons learned. With a passion and tenacity to win, he has overcome what could have broken many. He lost a child, lost a dream, and had to find his way back to life. From disappointments to heartbreaks, he grieved his way out of his devastating circumstances to become the great sports and entertainment executive that he is today.