JULY 16, 1983
OLE MISS (2001-05)

Career Highlights

  • 2011-12 ASU (Jordan)
  • 2009-10 Antranik Sports Club (Lebanon)
  • 2008-09 Al-Kahrak Sports Club (Iran)
  • 2007-08 Al-Ahli Sports Club (Qatar)
  • 2006-07 NBA G-League Anaheim Arsenal
  • 2005-06 NBA G-League Fayetteville Patriots



Most basketball athletes are used to making real-time adjustments on the court, but they struggle to make transitions in their lives. Justin Johnson is one former basketball player that has learned how to adapt to the twists and turns that come post-career and create a new path to live out his passion. In just a few months, the former Ole Miss Rebel has been able to parlay his small personal training startup into a trusted coaching business in one of the most exclusive zip codes in the United States. He has taken Beverly Hills by storm! By delivering a consistent and personalized service, Johnson has led youth basketball teams to championships and shaped young minds in the process. Basketball and training come naturally to him, and he does not take the trust and confidence of his clients’ families for granted. “I have become one of the family. I see these kids a few times every week,” Johnson shares warmly. Keep reading, as he weighs in on his transition from player to coach and the teaching power of basketball!

Growing up in North Carolina, the love of basketball became a part of Johnson’s DNA. He shares how his passion for the game led him to his ‘Next Quarter. ‘

TAN: “Tell us about your childhood and how basketball became your future?”

JJ: “I was fortunate to grow up around a basketball dynasty. My childhood best friend and I forged a bond over the sport. We would play basketball from the time we woke up until we went to sleep. It was the way that we communicated. This friendship afforded me access to elite players and the world in which they operated. It made the dream of playing in college and professionally seem attainable and something that was the norm.”

TAN: “What was the most challenging thing about playing professionally?”

JJ: “The business side. I was accustomed to training and playing; I was comfortable in that space. But the business side was foreign to me. I just wanted to focus on being the best athlete I could. I now understand that I should have better utilized my professional team. (i.e. Agents, Business Managers, etc.) There is so much more to being a professional athlete than just playing the sport.”

TAN: “Very true! What brought you to Los Angeles and your flourishing business as a Coach and Personal Trainer for children?”

JJ: “Over the years as I traveled back and forth from overseas, Los Angeles was always my hub – which eventually ended up being my home. I have been living in LA since 2009.”

TAN: “And your business?”

JJ: “It all started with me working as a personal trainer. Coming from overseas, I would do training with adults and it was just a hobby at first. Something to do to keep busy. I got one person to come, a middle school aged kid named Oliver. And he worked out. His mother approached me and asked if I wanted to train him on a consistent basis. Then, other people saw me doing it and approached me about my services. It ballooned from a hobby into a business. That next cycle gave me an opportunity to do something I really enjoyed.”

“It was amazing because I had played basketball every season from the age of nine until well into my thirties. Even though I had a degree in Criminal Justice, I still saw myself as just a basketball player. If you asked me to tell you more about me I would answer, “I like to train, and I like to work out.” I enjoyed every aspect of basketball. Not just the game, but going to the gym, training, playing pick-up games – literally everything associated with the sport. Making the transition and pouring everything into the kids…without even thinking about it, it was natural for me.”

“I was teaching them, and in turn, teaching myself that I was much more than just a basketball player. At this point, I was a mentor to kids with dreams of playing college basketball or just dreams of making their high school team. I could tell I was really making a meaningful impact by the reactions of the parents and students.”

“Fast forward, I get to the second cycle of my business. I met a man looking for a fitness trainer while I was living in Bel Air. Turns out (Matt) is a huge L.A. Clippers fan, and my NBA D-league team was affiliated with the Clippers. So, that kicked off our relationship. He asked me to train him in basketball. I took him through the paces, I mean I killed him. He asked me to give the rest of his sessions to his kids. He has four children of various ages. So, I go to his home to train his kids in Beverly Hills. The family was awesome and really enjoyed the rest of our sessions. Matt was like, ‘I need a favor. Can you please help me train my kids?’ I started to think about my business and the fact that some of the kids I started with were getting older. The frequency increased, and eventually, training those four kids turned into me coaching in their recreational league – The Beverly Hills Basketball League. Remember, I was just a basketball player learning the business of personal training. So, I just followed the flow of the business.”

TAN: “So the plan changed?”

JJ: “I had a lot of adult clients but training Matt’s kids and coaching them and going on to win championships my first year was fulfilling in a new way. Several of the parents started paying attention to our dynamic and my interaction with the kids. At this point, everyone was asking Matt what was our secret. Matt became my walking commercial. He is the most humble and successful businessman I know, he is always sharing tips on how to make my business better.”

TAN: “Mentoring you with tangible information…”

JJ: “Exactly! When he said you should really think about training these kids, I was apprehensive because I didn’t imagine my business going this way. I was doing well training adults. Matt warned me that a lot of people would start hitting me up about training and coaching their kids, but that I MUST coach his kids only! Other than that, I could train anyone I wanted. *laughs robustly* And I totally understood!”

TAN: *with a chuckle* “He was like, I want to share you, but I don’t want to shaaarree you…”

JJ: “Exactly! Our dynamic was so great that I was all too happy to be loyal. I was Uncle J to his children at this point. I appreciated everything he had done for my business. He literally referred me to family and friends who trusted him, and as an extension, now trusted me. It has since ballooned to over 23 families I work with and growing!”

TAN: “You, better than anyone, can share your experience with personal branding and how important it has been to your success.”

JJ: “Being protective of my brand has been the staple of my business. When Matt put his stamp of approval on me, he transferred his good reputation to me. Initially, I didn’t want to let him down or fall short of that. I wanted to deliver the superior experience he was praising. But, now I have cultivated my own reputation and brand of excellence. Now, I strive for consistency in excellence. I want every session to be like the first one. I am working to maintain the same level of excitement and intensity for years to come.”

TAN: “Name some of the things that basketball taught you that you have been able to apply to your life outside of sports.”

JJ: “Basketball put me in front of people. I was forced to communicate in a professional manner. Whether I wanted to or not. In the development of my business, being able to speak with confidence to others from a different field has been awesome. I learned how to be a leader and speak up. I share that lesson with my students. Some shy away from taking a leadership role, but I encourage them to step up. The intensive training taught me accountability and responsibility. I find myself making sure I get ample rest the night before my sessions. Little things that add up to big things. These are all lessons I pass on to my students and clients.”

Justin Johnson has mastered the art of branding his business and transitioning into a successful post career. If you need a personal trainer or you are ever on the West Coast, make sure you follow and connect with Justin and his company JusTraining Fitness!

Facebook: JustinMJohnson

Instagram: Thafreshprinceofbelair

Twitter: @thafreshprinc3

By LaToya Baker of The Athlete’s Nexus