Niesha Butler is redefining the term renaissance woman on her terms! A record-holding high school and collegiate basketball phenom, former WNBA player, and model who has transitioned into tech, STEM, and STEAM, Niesha is utilizing her platform to elevate today’s youth to “go pro” in more than just sports.
After a successful professional basketball career, which included time as a sideline reporter for the Atlanta Hawks, Niesha became a staple in the rising Atlanta tech market as an investor and coder.
In 2020, after traveling the country teaching coding and STEM basics to youth, Niesha launched Ballin’ Technology, a multifunctional non-profit organization that combines sports and tech to help inner-city youth grow beyond stereotypical norms of success and explore additional avenues of success.
Expanding her reach and goal to help positively impact today’s youth, Niesha is preparing to launch her first educational center called S.T.E.A.M Champs in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York, this summer.
When did you realize you held a gift and passion for basketball?
Basketball started out as a bonding activity between my dad and me. He is the ultimate girl dad and loves his basketball and the Knicks. In the beginning, my parents didn’t think I would be very good at basketball because I was tiny for years so they always instilled in me to use basketball as a tool to get an education. I was better at track and field.
Can you name someone or something that was influential in your success as a ball player?
The thing that caused my success was practice and hard work. The influential people were my parents as they pushed me and set the bar high for what they considered an accomplishment. When I outgrew my dad as him being my coach he sought out Dave Jones from the Gauchos and Walter Welsh from IEXCEL to coach me. These coaches are legendary. Dave Jones coached many NBA players and Walt Welsh has coached several WNBA players and hundreds of D1 girls.
As a record-holding player, what would you consider to be the most rewarding and challenging part of your career?
Breaking records was fun but as far as significance it basically served as the trash talk for my dad and me but unfortunately, my mom still made me do my chores. lol
I had a lot of injuries throughout my career but I think that taught me valuable life lessons. Rehabbing from several injuries builds character and resilience in you.
Playing basketball has prepared me to be an entrepreneur. Not many people have been great at something, so many don’t know what it takes to be great at anything, I do.
Tell us about your transition from WNBA to the Tech and Stem industry?
After playing basketball I had a natural progression into sideline reporting. I worked for CBS Sports, TMZ, HLN, and MSG Varsity. I got into tech when I went back to school and had to take Computer Science to graduate. I started my first tech company in 2010, my 2nd in 2016, and my most recent STEAM Champs in 2021. I was mentored in robotics under the Lonnie Research lab in Atlanta for 2 years and I just fell in love with it. I like building things and now I am passionate about teaching kids how to build and create things.
You have a mission to teach youth to “Go Pro” in more areas than just sports, can you tell us about this initiative?
Less than .50 percent of all athletes in America go pro but there are currently hundreds of thousands of STEM jobs paying 150k open in America. All of my STEAM champs that we teach who want to continue on into a STEM career will have a great paying job should they choose this career. My job is to ignite their learning and prepare them to go pro in a STEM career. I am confident that all of our kids will go pro. 100% vs less than .5%
Can you share more about your new project “S.T.E.A.M Champs” which will be located in your hometown? How can parents get their kids involved?
Many parents in the inner city either don’t know about STEM, coding, and or robotics or can’t get to a STEM program, especially in urban communities of color. They know about Lebron James but not Katherine Johnson or Lonnie Johnson. My center will be located just blocks away from where I grew up, near Juniors Restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn. We will offer coding, robotics, chess, digital art, STEM field trips, and parental learning classes at this site. Our goal is to educate parents as well as kids on the importance of STEM education all while having fun in a non-judgemental environment.
What advice do you have for the next generation of young girls looking to get their start in sports?
Jump into it. Sports teach kids a lot of life lessons. 9 out of 10 female CEOs in America all played sports. Playing sports has a positive impact on young girls.
What would you consider to be your key to success?
I am definitely blessed/lucky to have great parents and mentors and I also prepare well and work smart/hard. I think those things are a winning combination.
What is your definition of a Pretty Woman Who Hustles? me..lol
Social Media Handles: @NieshaButler