Tj Stukes is a retired professional basketball player, born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He spent his childhood split between Mount Vernon and the Bronx. At a towering 6’8 and weighing 244 pounds, he has a naturally athletic build that served him well in his basketball career.
Tj played basketball professionally for 20 years of his life, until he retired in March 2023. He attended Independence CC and Pittsburg State University in Kansas, where he met his wife Samantha. Together they have two children, Amare and Alana Aofia-Stukes.
Despite his rough upbringing in the foster care system, Tj is a natural leader with a kind persona. He is a hard worker and is always open to learning new skills. Tj is currently pursuing his dream of becoming a full-time actor and has appeared in several projects, including a lifestyle Adidas commercial and the Netflix movie, Hustle, starring Adam Sandler.
Tj comes from a family of four siblings, including three sisters named Ebony, Liz, and Shawntai. His parents are Denise Brown and Timmy Stukes. He is currently coaching at Northern New Mexico College with his wife, and they are thrilled to see this dream of theirs being realized. Tj prides himself on his hard work and professionalism, and he continues to inspire others with his dedication and drive.
What inspired you to pursue a career in professional basketball and how did you get your start in the industry?
I’m a person who likes to be ahead of the ball, not on the ball!
The sport of basketball was all around me! Being a New Yorker, where some of the best basketball is played (all around the world) I had no choice but to play and that grew to a love that would be unconditional. My Mount Vernon JV coach, Coach C, gave me a chance and I never looked back! I was a natural talent and I had so many people tell me I was good enough but no one showed me how to be a pro. Eric Jones showed me every aspect of life off court, from professionalism to putting myself out into the world with the correct narrative.
Can you describe a moment or experience during your basketball career that you found particularly challenging and how you overcame it?
One of the most challenging things as a basketball player that I had encountered up until my final season of playing was travel. I traveled too much, which is a thing! From college, which I had to move from New York to Kansas, was one of the most difficult culture shocks that I have experienced. To travel to multiple countries in an extremely short time.
How has your background in foster care shaped the person you are today and influenced your leadership style?
Such a great question! Foster care seemed like it would never end. Foster care has made me patient, empathetic and understanding which has translated to my leadership style. People are people, we are not perfect by any means and I feel if a person approaches another understanding that, this world would be so much better.
What prompted your interest in pursuing a career in acting, and how do you approach the craft of acting compared to the physical demands of basketball?
I was part of a reality show on MTV as a teen called Nike Battlegrounds. I was exposed to a world that I was completely enamored by! The lights, so many great people, and obviously the finished product. My time with the Harlem Wizards aided me with my growth as an actor because every single game was a show! I realized quickly that the show had to feel brand new to me because it was a new audience every night.
How have you developed your coaching style and what do you hope to instill in your players?
n all my travel and playing, I’ve realized that I can not expect myself out of another, instead bring the best out of a person by understanding their personality and allowing trust to grow organically. Also understanding that everything is a two way street. Trial and error has been my best friend over my 20 year career, i’ve learned the hard way and the easy way but to my players it’s all about allowing them to make mistakes but minimizing them as much as I can with my knowledge.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement, both on and off the court?
My greatest achievement on the court is being a part of a record setting team with 31 consecutive wins (which is a record that is still active). Off the court, becoming a father and a husband to the people that I love the most.
How do you balance your personal and professional lives, particularly with the demands of coaching and pursuing a career in acting?
The balance from my pro to my personal life is essential, being a Libra, i NEED balance and that took real work. My wife and I always make time for our kids because we cannot forget that they are kids first! I am a work horse, I love the feeling when it’s earned and not given! I meditate and give myself a chance to process and attack the moments that arise as they come!
Can you speak to any community service or philanthropic work you’ve been involved in, and how important is giving back to you?
Being a philanthropist has come natural because I came from nothing and so when I see kids in those same situations I understand and empathize. Money isn’t the only thing that can help people, I feel that time and showing a person you care genuinely without a handout is extremely important to me. I care deeply about human beings and only want to see people prosper as best as they can.
How do you stay motivated and continue to challenge yourself, particularly now that you’ve retired from basketball?
The next generation is up, so the challenges of staying up to date and not becoming a relic is something that keeps me motivated. My care for this generation is monumental because of the challenges I had to grow up with. Being a protector and a fighter for peace is something that drives me to be the best person I can be all the time!
Looking ahead, what are your goals for the future and what steps are you taking to achieve them?
My goals for the future is to be a successful assistant coach to my wife, which I tell you I am constantly learning and pushing myself everyday. With Acting, putting my head down and continuing the grind, because that’s all I know!
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