By Dennis J. Freeman
Kimberli Russell used to be a stay-at-home wife. She used to hover in the background while millions cheered her famous husband. She knows that being a professional athlete’s spouse usually means lots of quite time with the kids. She’s been there and done that.
Kimberli Russell is now making a name for herself. Kimberli Russell is one of the stars of the hit reality television show VH1’s Basketball Wives: Season 2. She is the wife of retired NBA player Bryon Russell.
She’s familiar with doing homemaking thing while her husband grinded out a 14-year NBA career. During her husband’s long and stellar career, Kimberli Russell stayed at home. She cooked. She checked in on the schoolwork and homework assignments of the couple’s three children.
Being married to a top-notch NBA player meant putting aside a possible career in psychology, which she majored in at Cal State University of Long Beach. Now that her husband is now fully into retirement, Kimberli have traded in her leisure time and shopping sprees to empowering women and putting to use her entrepreneurial and business acumen.
“I was satisfied with what I was doing,” Kimberli Russell told news4usonline.com. “I had children right away when we got married. I didn’t want to leave them at home. I wanted to raise my own kids. I didn’t want nannies everywhere. I was totally fine with that. But now, it’s not enough. They’ve gotten older. Bryon has slowed down. So, it’s my time. Bryon encouraged me to do whatever I wanted.”
During his heyday as a legendary shooting guard in the NBA, Bryon was known to the basketball world simply as BRuss. Kimberli Russell took Byron’s famous moniker and made it her own calling card, establishing her K-Russ brand.
Part of that brand is marketing a unique brand of furniture and products. But when one thinks of a brand, it usually extends to all facets of a person or corporation. Kimberli Russell is far from being a one-dimensional person. Her brand is a lot more than making a fashion statement with furniture placement.
She wants to maximize the growth of her health and fitness company, Faith N Fitness, Mind, Body, and Soul. She operates as a life coach-mentoring, coddling and encouraging women on how to overcome depression and how to push aside low-self esteem. Working with abused women and children is an embedded part of her DNA.
That brand is helping to bring fulfillment into other people lives, whether it is promoting healthy living through exercise, counseling bruised and battered women and children.
“I find myself talking, encouraging and encouraging [people] all the time,” Kimberli Russell said. “I really want to show my kids…I want them to see why I went to college. Right now, I am really doing this for my kids. I want them to see me as being successful, getting out of the home and making it happen. I want them to know why they have to go to school. I want them to see that mommy is making it happen, too. That’s important to me.”
What’s also important to Kimberli Russell is trying to help eradicate the stereotype of professional athletes and their relationships. One of those stereotypical notions is that all pro athletes, especially NBA players, cheat on their wives. Kimberli Russell has been married to husband for 15 years. She and Bryon were college sweethearts. To lump all athletes into one box is simply wrong, she said.
“There are a small number of men who are fortunate enough to become professional athletes. They put them all in one little box and say here: Men cheat. Women cheat,” Kimberli Russell said. “I don’t think it’s fair at all to put just athletes in this particular box. Tiger Woods and Tony Parker are just two of millions and millions of men. I hate it when I hear that they all do this and they all do that. I don’t have that issue.
“My marriage is not perfect. I knew that when I married my husband. He knew I wasn’t perfect when he married me. I’m not saying that we haven’t had any kind of issues. Of course, we have. We’ve been married for 15 years. But we work through them. We pray together. We want to be together and we work it out.”
Prayer and her faith in God are two of the top reasons Kimberli Russell believes her marriage has been able to absorb life’s speed bumps and survive.
“I believe it’s been our faith in God,” Kimberli Russell said. “We go to church together and [have] prayer. That has helped me be a mother, being a wife, a friend and everything. If I didn’t have my faith I wouldn’t know where I’d be…my marriage wouldn’t be successful. I wouldn’t be a good mother or any of that.”
Faith without action is dead. Kimberli Russell is a person who knows how to walk the walk. Before she received a call from Shaunie O’Neal, the executive producer of VH1’s Basketball Wives: Season 2, she had just been accepted to Pepperdine University’s graduate program. She had her hand in other endeavors. Then the call came from her longtime friend.
Kimberli Russell accepted the role, hoping to dismiss a lot of the convoluted messages out there about NBA wives and their families.
“A lot of people think we’re all one way,” Kimberli Russell said. “We’re all at the mall. We shop all day. We have no life. [But] We’re mothers. Some of us are lawyers. Some of us are doctors, actresses. Shaunie and I talked about the show before it ever started. We’ve been friends for a long time.
“I knew she was doing the show, but I had no interest in being it. We did talk about it. But the show took a different direction right off. She wanted it to be more about women with careers and stepping away from the home thing.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”