Lakia Brooks, the mother of Flau’jae Johnson, remembers her daughter’s basketball journey like only a mother can.
“She goes, ‘I want to play basketball.’ And I said, ‘Basketball? Well, there's no 4-year-old girls playing basketball’,” Brooks said. “So I put her on a team with the boys - it’s been hell ever since.”
Now, under the new NCAA rules, Flau’jae Johnson is set to become one of the highest-paid female athletes in collegiate sport history.
“There's just something about seeing that ball go to the hoop and the splash and everybody screaming,” said Johnson. “I always wanted [them] to like me, that was my goal.”
Johnson will begin playing for LSU in the fall.
“Having a university offer you a full scholarship to attend... That stunned me. Like you're willing to pay for my education, pay for this just for me to play basketball and represent,” said Johnson.
Last year, the NCAA adopted a policy that collegiate athletes could profit through their “Name, Image and Likeness,” known as NIL, and that is now in effect.
“God just blessed me... I can take care of my family for generations just what I do in these four years right here. People don't understand how big, big of an opportunity that is,” Johnson said. “I'm not taking it for granted; like everything I’ve gotta do I’m going to make sure I do it.”
It’s not only her performance on the court that sets her apart from other athletes. Johnson doubles as a rapper, garnering nearly 1 million followers on social media and a distribution deal with Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s record company. The combination means Johnson could potentially be one of the highest earning student-athletes ever.
Johnson made it to the quarterfinals of NBC’s “America's Got Talent” in 2018, which spurred her career as a performer.
“[Simon Cowell] told me I was going to be a star. I took that and I ran with it,” Johnson said.
Brooks remains protective of her daughter’s hard work. She said the internet is not always a kind place.
“It was a roller coaster because the internet was in full effect and people were so mean to her,” Brooks said.
Brooks said it is important for her daughter to keep rapping to remain close to her father, Jason Johnson, who was shot and killed. He was a rapper who went by the name Camouflage.
“He died, but a connection that we shared [was] the music. It's like I feel like an energy whenever I'm making music,” said Johnson. “I just knew that he was a storyteller and, like a poet, he really spoke for the people who didn't really have a voice.”
Brooks said her daughter’s name was the last big decision her husband got to make before he died.
“I was a single mom raising her… Jason’s death was sudden for all of us,” said Brooks. “[Before he died] we argued 3 to 4 days about that name. But after he passed away, like a month later, I was like, ‘This is the last big decision that he's going to have to make for her.’”
Flau’jae Johnson said she carries her father’s legacy with her, but has also learned the importance of leaving her own mark on the world.
“With basketball I have my own legacy and I'm still carrying my dad's with music,” said Johnson.
Johnson added that she is excited to inspire the next generation of female athletes and musicians to follow all of their passions - no matter how many there may be.
“I can show little girls [there’s] another way to do it. You can keep it clean, you can keep a positive impact on people,” she said. “So keep a net positive energy and that's how I am.”