"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Obi Momah is pensive as he speaks about his younger brother, an eighth grader with promise and potential, a budding mind that reminds Obi of his younger self. Growing up, he trained his brother in basketball, setting the tone for life lessons about hard work, dedication, persistence and motivation.
He says, “You can inspire people, but motivation is intrinsic, it’s like a flame that is there and doesn’t go out. Motivation can have many different origins, but it will always be a person’s first cause. It allows people to realize certain passions and have different revelations.” Nonetheless, he adds, those revelations must be discovered on one’s own.
Obi is no stranger to this type of motivation. He is a firm believer in the power of self-development, intellectual fortification and spiritual edification of the mind. He says that his faith in God has blessed him with the opportunity to be at Marist, and reading the Bible and watching online sermons are what encourage him to inspire others.
Similarly, he enjoys TED Talks, reading books by successful artists in his fields of interest and listening to podcasts. One of his favorite programs is by motivational speaker and former pro basketball player Dre Baldwin, who discusses topics concerning individual confidence, reaching one’s goals and achieving success. Obi uses this advice not only for his personal well-being, but also for the most important aspect of his life at the moment, and a love both he and Baldwin share—basketball.
A junior on the Marist Men’s basketball team, Obi is a forward for the Red Foxes. He says he decided to play ball at Marist not simply because he was offered a scholarship to a Division I school, but also because it proved the perfect combination of academics and athletics. “Basketball is something that’s always been there for me. It’s something I’ve always had a passion for—whether watching the NBA, reading basketball books, or imitating my favorite players in the driveway,” he explains. “I either have my nose stuck in basketball, or my schoolwork,” he grins.
Obi appreciates the support of his team and emphasizes the brotherhood behind this support system, as all are in the same place for the same love: to play basketball. “I just try to stay focused on honing my craft, and honoring the game and the process, so that I can be the player that God has given me the capacity to be and be the best player I can be for my team,” he says.
“The way I look at it, every day I wake up I have an opportunity. I try to put myself in a mental frame where I expect great things to happen, ‘cause you know, nothing good comes out of worrying or having negative thoughts,” he reflects.
He recalls a podcast by Baldwin, where the discussion centered around people who think they have an abundance of time. “People assume that as they get older, they will gain certain qualities and become certain people, but in reality, if you are 30 and have the mentality of an eighteen-year-old, have you reached your true potential?” He adds that the drive basketball requires pushes him to take on the persona he wants to be, both now and in the future. “I think to myself, ‘how would I feel if I didn’t have basketball?’ There would be a really large void; I don’t know what I could find to fill that.”
If Obi can live every day with a “Yes I can” attitude, he believes that the ever looming “What if?” about the future is no match for him. Obi is currently involved with two local non-profit organizations, The Crossover Project and Excellence Through Athletics, that center on leadership training to encourage character development and integrity for inner city youth through the lens of basketball. He expresses that both organizations are geared with a faith based approach to do good work for youth struggling with their home life, as well as focus on encouraging future aspirations. He understands that although life can be hard, discussion and collaboration are key. “If you don’t talk about something, how can you address it? There’s a time and place for everything, and obstacles are everywhere. You can’t jump over them, or run around them—you have to just go right through them.”
As one of four siblings, Obi’s tight knit family upholds this value of living with purpose and pushing through hardship. Obi’s parents came to the United States in the 1970s from Nigeria. His father boarded a plane for Ohio, without so much as a winter coat, and graduated college in two and a half years. His mother met him shortly afterwards, and Obi was born in Columbus, Ohio before his family moved to Connecticut, where they currently reside.
“My dad inspires me because he had to make it on his own in this country. He didn’t know anyone, he had to find a way to make it all happen and stay focused,” he says. Both parents are successful attorneys—a career path that Obi admits he highly considers. “I’m a criminal justice major, and there is a big need for quality people in that field—for people that know what’s going on and are able to make an impact.”
Growing up, his father would see him [Obi] playing video games and instead offer his son a newspaper to read, asking him to write up a brief summary about the information learned. “I wouldn’t be as on top of things as I am now if it weren’t for my dad. He was always on me about keeping my room clean, because he knows that kind of discipline carries over,” he admits. “The idea is, if you can’t even keep your room clean, how can you manage a family, a business, etc.?” he laughs.Obi is similarly humbled by his parents’ background. They both came from supportive families and good areas in Nigeria, but they always worked for what they had and “nothing was ever handed to them.”
“Ultimately, no one can tell you who you can be and what you can do in this life, because if you want something badly enough you will go after it,” he expresses. He says that at the end of the day, a person’s faith and understanding of who they are is what keeps him going.