Getting to the top in world basketball means playing in the NBA, and all the super-duper megabucks, attention and fame that come with it. This is where 24-year-old Cleveland, Ohio-born 6’8” forward and ex-Kent State alumni Miryne ‘Montana’ Thomas very much wants to be.
Just getting to be a pro athlete, in any sport, however, is incredibly hard, let alone trying to scale the summit of one of the most contested, hyper-competitive, widely played sports in the whole wide world. Doing that requires not just the on-court moves, but also incredible durability and resilience to cope with the ups and downs of the journey to get there.
The latest step on Miryne’s journey has brought him to these shores, to play this season in the British Basketball League (usually called the BBL for short) for the Leicester Riders – the oldest, and one of the most successful teams in the UK.
It also sees him starring in a new shoot with Complex to showcase the Nike Underwear Autumn/Winter 2023 collection.
The AW23 collection has been designed for maximum manoeuvrability, and is engineered from smooth, stretch microfiber, paired with Dri-FIT technology that wicks away sweat to help wearers stay dry and comfortable at all times. This means it’s perfect for both on and off court – whether you’re working out or running errands.
Check out the video and shots showcasing the collection, below, and pull up a chair as we catch up with Miryne to hear how he found the shoot, the underwear and the latest on his epic basketball journey.
We’re on set with Nike Underwear for a shoot you just starred in – how did it go, and is this something you get to do much of?
This was my first ever shoot apart from basketball ones! It went well though. I had a lot of fun, got to meet a lot of new people, it was a great experience. I can definitely see myself getting into it and continuing on this journey.
You play pro in the British Basketball League, but you grew up in Cleveland in the US. Can you talk us through your sporting journey to get to this point?
I started playing basketball at 15, which is quite late. I started just to break a generational curse and be the first in my family to graduate from college. But it went well, and as I got to college, I got better, and I thought, ‘I could do this to a professional level’. I declared for the NBA draft before this season started, but with the agents I had, it just didn’t work out. So for me, first generation college graduate, I needed to keep the lights on, paying the bills, so I ended up signing a deal over here with the Leicester Riders.
How’s the team getting on, and how is playing in the UK, compared to the US?
We have a strong team, explosive at times, and I think further down the line we could be a great team, but right now we’re still kind of figuring it out, to be honest. Playing college basketball in the US was a bit harder in some ways – there was definitely more attention to detail – but over here it’s more free flowing, a faster pace – if you can get up and down the floor, that’s what they’re looking for. I would also say the officiating over here is not the best [chuckles] – it’s hard to play against your opponent and the ref at the same time!
How do you find life off the court in the UK?
I didn’t really know what to expect before I came, but I really like living here. It’s really comfortable, the people are welcoming, and the food is great.
Er, you know people don’t usually shout out the food over here, right? – at least not outside foodie circles, anyhow.
Yeah, I know [laughs], but when I say that, I’m speaking to the quality of the produce – the chicken, the beef. In the US the food isn’t as healthy as it is here. When I first got here, I could instantly taste the difference in quality and what it does to my body and how my body feels after I eat.
What kind of diet do you keep to as an athlete – any specific rules you have to follow?
I’m not a fan of vegetables. I’m heavy on carbs, heavy on protein, so I try to drink my vegetables instead of eating them because the taste really doesn’t hit me how it should!
Talk us through a typical game day.
You wake up early in the morning to try and get your body moving, your heart regulated. You’ll watch videos of whichever opponent you’re facing, connect with your god and make sure you get your mind ready, your body ready. I usually try and get to the arena early, then after that it’s all about the love of the game. It’s a blessing that I play basketball for a living, and I try to go out and wear that on my sleeve every time I play.
After the game there’s tons of fans, tons of family, who want to take pictures and get signatures, so I try to soak that in, because even though I'm not at the highest level in the world I am part of a professional level out here.
How quickly can you get it out of your system when you lose a game?
For me it’s the shower – once I shower, I let everything go, let everything wash away. Your body feels fresh and you can kind of just take your emotions out of it and move on to the next chapter.
What does training life look like?
A typical pro athlete should be lifting three, four times a week, making sure your body and muscles are staying in tune. You should be on the [basketball] court at least twice a day. My typical routine is going to the court two, three times a day. I’ll be fine tuning my shots, making sure my moves are sharp and that I'm prepared for whoever I'll be facing in my next game.
Which player is your biggest inspiration – and why?
LeBron James. He’s from near where I grew up. Because of the impact he had on my community when I was growing up. I started playing basketball late, but I was watching LeBron since I was a kid, and I saw how many people gravitated towards him because of what he was doing for the community, the love he was giving to the community in Cleveland.
Cleveland is always in the top five, top ten most dangerous cities in America, so when you’re from a dangerous city and you have an idol like that that’s impacting your community you kinda lean towards him, whether you’re playing that sport or not, like he’s doing something for this community, for our city, our state, so let’s love that.
What do you think you need to make it as a basketball player?
Consistency. You have to be humble, and you have to be willing to learn. You have to be a sponge, willing to soak up knowledge, skill, whatever you can.
What goes through your head when you’re about to shoot a free throw?
If I’m feeling the pressure, I just take a deep breath and try to imagine I’m shooting a free throw the night before, or day before. Preparation is key. We play every week here, so we’ll prepare for each game throughout the week before. If you prepare right, get your reps up, then when you’re there in the game you think, ‘I’ve been doing this all week’ so you have that confidence to just go knock it down. If you’re not working the right way that week, then when it comes to Friday or Saturday’s game and you get to the free throw line, that’s when the pressure really hits.
What does success mean to you?
Success means consistency. It doesn’t always mean being successful, but it does mean always giving it your best effort.
What sounds do you listen to when you’re training?
I listen to a lot of slow music when I’m training: R&B, soul. I go all the way back to the 70s sometimes, but that’s my sound. I listen to it when I’m training, getting shots up and before a game. I’m an energetic person, so the R&B kinda dials me back, gives me dopamine, hones me into where I need to be, because sometimes i can be over energetic and over explosive to the point of making mistakes because I’m going too fast, or doing something too quickly
Interesting – how did you come to realise this?
I found it out through trial and error, basically. When I started out it was just pure love for the game and I wanted to go hard all the time. Through trial and error I started to realise that rather than going 100 miles an hour, maybe 70 miles an hour works better for me, because it gives me time to manouevre, to do things the best way for me.
Switching back to the shoot – what are your priorities when choosing underwear, for training in or for everyday wear?
Comfort and style, those are probably the main two that I look for.
What do you think of the Nike Underwear AW23 collection you were wearing in the shoot?
I always find Nike Underwear comfortable, and it’s the same with this season’s collection. As you could see [chuckles] I felt confident walking around with them on! I would say the designs on this collection are creative as well. My two favourite pairs are the blue colourway and the black ones with the Nike swooshes all over them.
Nike Underwear is made from soft and stretchy sustainable knit fabric which means it’s designed for movement, and the use of Dri-FIT also reduces the impact of sweat, making them perfect for working out in. Do you wear Nike Underwear on court?
Yeah – I wear Nike Underwear for training and playing.
And when it comes to wearing this season’s Nike Underwear collection off court, what sort of styling might you be going for?
My first thoughts are spring and summer looks – I’ll wear them with swim trunks, for example. Or with a tank top, or shorts. I’ll style them so the waistband can be seen, like in some of the shots on the shoot earlier, too.
Finally, what are your plans for the near future?
I plan to finish this season here with the Leicester Riders. To play my best, be my best, try to hopefully impact winning as much as I can. Then I plan to declare for the NBA draft again, do the pre-draft in Las Vegas and then, hopefully, things will go the way they should have the first time…
To cop the Nike Underwear AW23 collection visit JD Sports: https://www.jdsports.co.uk/men/mens-accessories/underwear/brand/nike/
Director: Ellie Ramsden
Hair: Nicole Aguilar Collazos
Make-Up: Courtney-Reece Scott
1st Assistant: George Robson
2nd Assistant: Stefan Weil
Styling: Sharufa Yuma