Behind The Pink Shoes
A look back at a great summer for fan favorite Milani Malik.
by Mia Hall / @Mia_HallDaily
For most, the summer is a time to unwind, shoot the breeze, go on holiday, and enjoy the warm weather. For athletes like Milani Malik, it is time to grind.
I arrived at Dyckman Park about 30 minutes before the Ladies Takeover “She Got Game” event began. The crowd progressively increased until the gate was bursting at its seams by the time the game was ready to commence.
The starting five was announced by the Commentator for the night, Chocolate. “Next up we have ‘your favorite pretty baller.’ You’ve seen her in the pickup basketball documentary Doin’ It in the Park, and on courts worldwide, introducing, number five, M & M… Milani Malik!”
The loud cheers that followed emerged from a phalanx of Milani’s fans, friends and family members equipped with mini-posters showing their support.
With her pink shoes in full effect, Malik and many of the New York City’s top women ballplayers went head-to-head for the win and bragging rights for the next year. Milani’s team came out on top in a close game full of mixtape-worthy highlights.
After the game, daps, high fives and hugs came in abundance from half the crowd. Friendly and humble, Milani meets and greets with her infectious smile, in spite of menacing stomach ache that caused her to go behind the courts after these exchanges and bow down on the ground to assuage her pain. One would have never known she was sick, but that is how she is—never letting people see her sweat, especially not in the spotlight.
For the past few years, Milani has had similar situations and has come a long way from being an 11-year-old writing her hoop dreams in a small journal that she kept under her pillow each night. She is now living her dreams on her way to fulfilling her ultimate goal.
On her journey to joining a WNBA franchise, Milani has become a multifaceted basketball brand—able to work the camera, events and of course, her opponents on the basketball court, both women and men. Hailing from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, Milani has played basketball all over the world; from the NCAA, to overseas, to last season, being the only woman in the all-male ABA. This summer, she played in Jim Couch’s Uptown Challenge with the ladies, but also played with the men in several charity games—recently winning the New York Blaze All-Star Celebrity Charity Game run by overseas pro “Go Torey” in Porchester, NY.
In addition to playing basketball, Milani also continues to work for the New York Liberty, New York Knicks and several Nike activations and clinics through Game Seven Marketing. She coached plenty of clinics throughout New York City, was flown to Daytona Beach to work Vince Carter’s camp and is working Carmelo Anthony’s camp this weekend.
Earlier this summer, Malik went to Portland, OR, to learn about the Nike+ technology, a product line she would later market at the Nike World Basketball Festival in Washington, DC. She and a team of experts worked at the DC Armory, helping consumers test out the Nike Plus shoes using different training techniques.
She explained, “One of the Ekins (Nike Brand “Evangelist”) emailed my boss at Game Seven and told him ‘a lot got done because Milani’s a great worker.’ That felt great.”
An ardent philanthropist, Milani also spends a lot of time giving back to the community. If her other summer endeavors were not enough, she also launched a line with Iceberg Mouth Guards.
“One of my friends from the Knicks worked with Dr. Lee and introduced us. I explained my vision to Dr. Lee and he liked that I did a lot with charity. He has done things a lot for charity and wanted build on that. He gave me the idea to do mouth guards,” Malik exclaimed.
Dr. Lee has constructed mouth guards for Floyd Mayweather, who is also a part owner in the company, and other prominent athletes. The percentage that Malik would get from her line, pink and clear mouth guards, goes to Breast Cancer research. She also encourages those who don’t play sports to donate the mouth guard to a child.
She said, “Now the high schools require players to wear mouth guards as a part of their uniform. I worked with Brooklyn Collegiate and Boys and Girls High School who both said they did not have it in their budgets to provide mouthpieces for the players. I felt bad and so now I tell people who don’t play sports to sponsor a mouthpiece for a child. Even when they get one and donate it to the child, they are also still benefiting Breast Cancer research as well.”
Another way she is involved in the community is through the Ron Artest Foundation. They recently showed their support by posting information about her mouth guard line on their site. As a result of attending their launch party, PNC Bank is also interested in backing her charitable efforts.
“I feel it’s important to support cancer research because as a woman, I can get Breast Cancer at any time,” Milani stated. “Plus, my grandfather is fighting Prostate Cancer so it means a lot to me to give back and help whichever way I can. You have to set yourself aside and make a difference somehow.”
A vegan since birth, Milani has also been a healthy eating advocate, appearing on shows highlighting vegan lifestyles and with plans to create a vegan cookbook. Additionally, the venerable point guard is also launching the “Milani by Me’ya Cosmetics” line in the spring of 2013.
“Before we recently hired a publicist, my agent Dhanraj (Dream Team Sports) and I have hustled to take advantage of the opportunities I have been presented with over the years. Closed mouths do not get fed so we have to keep working until I get that call to play overseas again,” Milani admitted.
Look out for Milani to make major waves in sports the next few years. A Gold medal in 2016 is not far-fetched as it seems.