Playing above the rim: building communities through sports
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Born in China and raised around the world, Rezhan Majid has had his fair share of cultural exposure from a very young age - sports being one of the major attributes. His first attempt at a game of basketball began at eight years old and from that, friendships were formed and the love of the sport began.

It isn't only basketball, but sports in general. More than just a pastime or even a reason to get fit, sports can be the best way to close the communal gap between cultures, race and ethnicity. Upon his return to Malaysia, Rezhan observed cultural segregation in the sports scene as having strong negative effects on the industry’s growth. The undeveloped grounds within the industry is the key opportunity for companies like Statsports League and Sports Bandits to make a change for the better.

You worked a corporate job before this - what did you do?

I studied finance after I graduated from high school but it wasn’t something that I particularly enjoyed or wanted to do. Soon after, I found myself working in one of the Fortune 500 companies in Chicago. What I realised from there is that the cubicle life wasn’t something for me. My boss was sitting in the cubicle next to mine, and my boss’ boss was in the next cubicle after that, and his boss further down, and so on. I figured I could stay for 25 years and move a few feet down the hall or I could start thinking about what I really wanted to do.

How did Statsports League come into the picture?

I left my job and I didn’t have a plan but I knew I wanted to do something in sports. I was having coffee with my friend Andre and brought up the idea of starting a league. Part of the reason was because a lot of the leagues that we have here were not really up to par; the experience wasn’t really great and there was a lot of segregation going on. We wanted to start a league where anyone can show up and we’ll give them the best on-court and online experience. We have in-depth stats and each player has their own profile page with their highlights, giving them the experience of being a professional sports person even if they’re just average joes. From there it grew and got a lot of traction and two years on, we’ve got basketball development programmes and the launch of Sports Bandit.

"...a lot of leagues that we have here were not really up to par...and there was a lot of segregation going on."
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How do these statistics help an aspiring athlete or the sports industry in general?

You have plenty of tournament leagues where you pay a fee, you show up, the referees blow their whistles, and then they leave. We wanted to do something more than that. By giving people the best on-court and online experiences, we are able to showcase our platform better. From that, we’ve received plenty of enquiries from the US and Southeast Asia asking how we managed to build our network of coaches. We’re hoping to build a pipeline for the younger kids who are looking to do something more with basketball that you couldn’t get ten years ago.

Let’s talk about that pipeline you were mentioning about; in the States, if you’re good in sports, you go on to play for your college league and from there you may get chosen to play for a bigger team, whereas in Malaysia we don’t have anything like that.

That pipeline is an established multi-billion dollar industry where you have kids from age five and up who are scouted and trained to be professional players, and if you’re one of the chosen few, you’d eventually get to play for the NBA. In Malaysia, we’re not that great at basketball but we have a lot of kids who care about the game but have not been given the chance to see its potential and how it can also give them a higher education. We teamed up with a company called Global Squad and they specialise in identifying kids from around the world that wouldn’t have the exposure they’d need to get recruited by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). We hope to find the best talent in ASEAN and have the first NBA player come from this pipeline.

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After Statsports League, you founded Sports Bandits - what is this organization about?

With Sports Bandits, we have the traditional games like basketball, volleyball, and flag football; but we also do fun stuff like ultimate frisbee, dodgeball and bubble futsal. The core of what we do at Sports Bandits is to provide a hassle-free experience. One of the things we’re addressing is the ability to play sports despite a busy workweek. When it comes to team sports, the reasons why people don’t want to participate is because it can be quite inconvenient to get everyone together. We’ve got you covered from the booking of the venue to team arrangements so that it’s easier for people to have fun. It’s a very Asian thing to want to go into something with other friends instead of going on your own, but we have those who come on their own and eventually form a tight family unit.

So... Why build your company in Malaysia?

I think that KL is still very underrated and I feel a sense of obligation and responsibility to give back and help bring up the city a little bit more. As far as sports is concern, there’s a lot of misguidance in the industry. What really bothers me is how segregated sports can be here. There’s this subtone that categorizes culture and society to the sports they’re “supposed” to play. That’s what we’re here to do; to unite people together and make sports fun and accessible to all.

How do you go the extra mile in what you do?

Personally, it’s going into a space that’s not developed yet. If you have a vision or an idea that you want to see flourish, then work to build something out of it instead of just doing the bare minimum.

"...we have a lot of kids who care about [basketball] but have not been given the chance to see its potential and how it can also give them a higher education."
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In Rezhan's attempts to make sports available and accessible to everyone of different skill levels and capabilities, he’s also created platforms for aspiring athletes to have international opportunities that wouldn’t have been within reach only a few years ago. With companies like Statsports League and Sports Bandits already stirring changes within the industry, there is no doubt that Malaysia will one day be known for delivering 5-star players and revolutionizing the country’s sports scene entirely.

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#gotheextramile is a collaboration series with Ash Be Nimble to feature Malaysian fitness heroes who run that extra mile, wake up that extra hour earlier and endure that very last burpee. Together, we hope to inspire many more young spirits to work hard, dream big and never quit. For more similar stories, check out our hashtag #gotheextramile.

"If you have a vision or an idea that you want to see flourish, then work to build something out of it instead of just doing the bare minimum."
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More on Rezhan Majid:

Website: http://sportsbandits.com/

Website: http://statsportsleague.com

Facebook: fb.com/sportsbandits

Instagram: @sportsbandits