NBA Star Lance Thomas Sees Fishing as a Way to Build Leaders
It was the summer of 2013, and Lance Thomas was on a boat with close friends in the South Pass, where the Mississippi River washes into the Gulf of Mexico, with a monster tugging at the end of his fishing line. Still a novice angler at the time, Thomas couldn’t be sure exactly how big the bite beneath the deep actually was. The NBA forward just knew that wrestling it into submission was taking all of the strength in his 6-foot-8, 240-pound body—and that he was exhilarated by the fight. “When the fish pulls the reel in your hand, and you feel the amount of power these fish are running with,” said Thomas, “it’s like the fish is on the back of a Porsche and someone just floors it to 50 mph. He could’ve pulled me in the water.”
Instead, Thomas took charge. After about 50 minutes, he managed to pull the beast into the boat. When the battle was over, Thomas was left with 107 pounds of yellowfin tuna, an invigorated passion for fishing, and the adulation of the other anglers on his first-ever offshore catch. The feeling reminded Thomas of what it felt like to be part of, and a leader of, a team.
Today, Thomas is the captain of the Slangmagic Fishing team, a group of eight anglers from cities and rural areas across the United States who compete in tournaments all over the country. In addition to competing, Thomas is trying to give his young fans the same support they give him by hosting the Slangmagic Youth Ambassador program for kids 18 and under. Through fishing, Thomas hopes to not only impart the social skills, self-confidence and motor skills that come with learning the sport, but also to teach the kids in the program to take charge and lead by example.
“A lot of kids are followers,” said Thomas. “I want them to be leaders. And I want them to feel like a part of something.”
“A lot of kids are followers,” said Thomas. “I want them to be leaders. And I want them to feel like a part of something.” Thomas understands the power of being part of a team. After all, it was one of his Duke University teammates, Kenjuan Nichols, who introduced him to fishing in the first place.
The two were freshmen when Nichols invited Thomas out to Falls Lake, just outside of Durham, North Carolina, to fish crappie. Nichols had been an avid angler, but Thomas, who grew up on the concrete basketball courts of urban New Jersey, had never held a fishing pole. “I didn’t like touching the fish or the worms,” Thomas confessed. “I had him take the fish off the hook and bait it. After a while, he was like, ‘I’m not going to keep doing that for you.’ So I grabbed my towel and grabbed the fish and threw it off.”
But eventually, Thomas got used to getting his hands dirty. It was worth it to get the peace and tranquility, far away from the pressures of school and playing college basketball for the legendary coach and leader Mike Krzyzewski. He was happy to have a release and a way to recharge his brain before getting back to work. Eventually, the hobby followed him into the NBA. He wound up playing for the Pelicans in New Orleans, where he first learned about offshore fishing in the sportsperson’s paradise that is Louisiana. Eventually, Thomas bought his own boat, Slangmagic, and took his friends out to fish redfish, black drum and other species. “There’s a bond that forms, especially when you’re fishing offshore,” said Thomas. “You’re present with the people you’re out there with. Your attention isn’t pulled in different directions. You have to engage in conversation and learn about people.”
“There’s a bond that forms, especially when you’re fishing offshore.”
Out on the water, anglers also learn about their own strengths and weaknesses and those of the people they’re fishing with. That enables them to bring out the best in everyone and create a cohesive unit—to build a team and be the leader. In the Slangmagic Youth Ambassadors program, Thomas hopes to give that experience to kids. He wants them to feel the rush of landing a 100-pound fish, and he is providing them with the gear and skills to do so. But in addition to helping them become better anglers, he also wants to guide them toward fulfilling lives onshore. “I’ve learned from the best how to lead,” said Thomas. “That’s what I want to share with these kids. The mission is to help our kids achieve their goals, fishing-related or not.”
Get your fish on at
“A lot of kids are followers," said Thomas. "I want them to be leaders. And I want them to feel like a part of something.