Contrary to overwhelmingly popular belief, winning is not everything in sports. Being in the public eye or in a position of power as an athlete provides opportunities other individuals may never experience in their lifetime. After experiencing success in any type of industry, it is always an option to give back to the community that helps support your career. Texas Legends President and General Manager Malcolm Farmer says, “Bringing the community together is what really wakes me up. The basketball game itself is taking a round ball and putting it through a round goal. The sports industry is not using it as a platform to do greater work … to bring people together.”
Working your way to the top is not bad in and of itself, but why even reach the highest echelon of “success” if you are not going to use it for something meaningful?
Mr. Farmer and his professional team specifically defy any type of self-serving mindset by placing a special emphasis on servitude to others and to the community. And the Texas Legends’ service to the community is by no means a shallow, cliched PR campaign. Mr. Farmer’s career and sense of purpose revolves around the potential for good that comes from wielding such power. To Mr. Farmer, serving others is not just a virtue; it is a responsibility, and one that cannot be fulfilled without humility and mutual respect. “There are good people out there doing good things,” he points out. “From our first responders to our teachers. That is what the Texas Legends are all about! These people are the legends of the community.”
Mr. Farmer also points out that being in the community is different from being part of it, and he places great emphasis on the latter. The Texas Legends have always worked in conjunction with the Frisco ISD on games in which proceeds benefit the Frisco Education Foundation, which offers scholarships to the district’s graduating seniors and delivers grant money to teachers. The Texas Legends have also initiated anti-bullying campaigns and sponsored local fun runs.
Of course, gestures of this sort lose their meaning if the entities behind them are inaccessible. In an athletic landscape where admission fees to sporting events are becoming incrementally more exorbitant, tickets to a Texas Legends home game will generally go for just $10 each. In a world that bestows celebrity status to athletes, team members for the Texas Legends always stick around after the game to converse with fans and sign autographs.
Being in a G-League team may not bring you to the same status and prestige as the Harlem Globetrotters, but being the minor league affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks is no small feat. Hiring former NBA players as coaches and helping launch the careers of noted analysts and athletes elevates your team to a respectable tier. Mr. Farmer has spearheaded many of these advances ever since becoming the president and general manager of the team in March 2014, and his past professional experience has equipped him for the post. “Growing up, I wanted to be a coach,” he says. “I worked in college basketball for about 10 years and got tired of various components of that industry.”
Mr. Farmer’s career in sports began at his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, where he worked as a manager for the men’s basketball team. His professional life went further up the collegiate ladder, and following his tenure at Notre Dame were stints with Western Illinois University and Florida Atlantic University.
However, thanks to Southern Methodist University (SMU), his most recent employer before joining the Texas Legends, Mr. Farmer moved to Texas and immersed himself in the Frisco community. For two seasons, he was the director of basketball operations, and for the remainder of the three-year stretch, he took on the role of an assistant coach. While employed at SMU, Mr. Farmer worked under the basketball team’s then head coach, Matt Doherty, who was also formerly employed by Notre Dame’s basketball program.
In transitioning to the Texas Legends in 2009, Mr. Farmer left the NCAA circuit and moved toward an NBA G-League team, which he claims has made all the difference for him. “In college basketball, you are catering specifically to that university campus – the student body and the alumni,” he elaborates. “With the G-League team, it is more that your home base is the community. We are not catering to a student body; we are not catering to an alumni base. We are catering to all of Collin County.”
For Mr. Farmer, success is being able to serve your community and devote your life to something that brings people together; it is being able to engage locally with the area’s culture in a way that is authentic and not intrusive. It is being able to create an experience, and it is being able to lend an escape to people who truly need it most. In his own words, it is being able to fulfill that last metric in putting “terminally-ill children on cloud nine.”
About a January 4 home game, Mr. Farmer shares, “I am up in the owner’s club and one of our members introduces me to two kids. I took a picture with them. I high-fived them … gave them my card. The member said, ‘Malcolm, you have no idea what it means to these kids – what you guys do at the Texas Legends. These kids went through a ton of medical challenges. They do not get nights like this. The whole day, they have been talking about going to the Texas Legends game.’” Mr. Farmer adds, “Frankly, that is a lot more important and meaningful than the game itself.”
To those who search for meaning in the game itself, a leather ball can divide people and lead to animosity between fans of different teams. To those who search for meaning beyond the game, a leather ball can bring people together and improve the lives of an individual and community alike. As a society, we have assigned tremendous power to this inanimate object. So, why not use it for good?
Garrett Gravley is a Dallas-based arts and entertainment writer, journalist and music critic.