Since graduating from Oklahoma State in 2010, Obi Muonelo has been cut from six different teams while pursuing his NBA dreams.
He can rattle off each place as if it happened yesterday.
Philadelphia. Germany. San Antonio.
Fort Wayne, Ind. Austin, Texas. Tulsa.
Tulsa was one of the toughest to swallow.
“I had an unbelievable workout at Tulsa,” Muonelo said of the NBA D-League's 66ers. “I thought I made the team for sure. I thought I was about to be on the Thunder.”
Like the rest, it wasn't to be.
But those setbacks only made Muonelo stronger.
“I'm numb to failure at this point,” said Muonelo, the former Edmond Santa Fe standout who led the Wolves to the 2005 6A state championship before taking his talents to Stillwater. “To not be afraid to fail is very important. A person who isn't afraid of failure is the most dangerous person.”
For Muonelo, that outlook didn't form overnight.
While struggling to achieve his athletic dreams, Muonelo could only watch as childhood friends such as Sam Bradford, Blake Griffin, Ekpe Udoh, Gerald McCoy and Dominique Franks all went on to professional careers in either the NBA or NFL. Their success only added insult to injury.
“These are guys I played on AAU teams with,” Muonelo said. “These guys have millions and millions of dollar contracts. It's not about the money. I'm just not there. That's fine they got that. But I'm not even in the league. That was the part I didn't like about it.”
Eventually, Muonelo stopped steaming and started thinking.
“Started seeing there's more to life than basketball ... and there are so many other things you can do,” he said.
So in 2012, Muonelo launched a clothing line. He branded it “Young Lad,” with Lad serving as an acronym for loyalty, attitude and determination. For women, Muonelo created a spinoff he labeled “Young LasS,” which represents legacy, appreciation, style and strength.
Both lines offer hats, T-shirts, hoodies, shorts, sweatsuits, windbreakers, socks and even suits and ties.
Muonelo describes the line as “performance wear for life.”
“Anything that you want to perform in we can do that for you,” he said.
Muonelo, 25, majored in business marketing at Oklahoma State, with a focus on apparel merchandise. He settled on his brand name on a day that he was sick and said to himself he needed “some Allegra for the young lad.”
“I've never said that before in my life. I had a moment,” Muonelo said. “It was in that moment I sought out to take a stand of a high achievement and a high feeling for me.”
Now, Muonelo wants to pass it on.
He's trained kids at an area church over the past few years in his Obi Muonelo Basketball Arts program. It was there that Muonelo first started teaching the values of loyalty, attitude and determination to his students. His brand is now an extension of those teachings.
It also represents his struggle, all those times he was sent packing from all those cities.
“With basketball players like Kevin Durant, nobody gets to feel like KD. Nobody gets to feel like Blake Griffin or Russell Westbrook,” Muonelo said. ‘Now you do because this is our performance … It's for everyone to feel good about themselves, to feel like a star.”
Muonelo continues to chase his basketball dream of playing in the NBA. He still fancies himself as a point guard, a floor general who can organize his teammates and spread the floor with perimeter shooting. He works out every day to stay in shape while waiting on the day that fateful call will come.
“I really want to play for the Oklahoma City Thunder,” he said. “I think that I have what it takes to help them win a championship.”
But if it never happens, Muonelo now has something to fall back on.
“I've learned that there's nothing that you can't do,” he said. “You can be a jack of all trades. It's OK to be a jack of all trades. You get more out of yourself. It's more of an experience when you try different things.”