Forbes writers Chris Smith and Dan Kleinman noted that the competition was fierce for this year’s Forbes “30 Under 30” Sports list because athletics are famously a young person’s game. This year’s 2020 sports class includes an impressive list of stars including NFL standout Patrick Mahomes, NBA stars Klay Thompson and Paul George, along with MLB’s Christian Yelich, the NFL’s Bobby Wagner – and Dallas Mavericks DJ Poizon Ivy.
Yep, you read that right. Ivy Awino, who oversees in-arena music for the Mavs, was named to this year’s Forbes lineup of the world’s brightest young stars.
According to Forbes, being named to the 30 Under 30 list “carries a lifelong reputation of embodying the revolutionary, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that the organization represents.”
The announcement caps an impressive few years for the 29-year-old Awino, who is the first woman to ever DJ the NBA All-Star Game — and she’s done it twice. She also is a well-established entertainer and took her talents internationally the last couple of years as part of the NBA’s visits to her home continent of Africa.
Dallas Mavericks vice president of entertainment and in-game presentation, Jonathan Kornblith, said Poizon Ivy carries a unique skillset that makes her stand out among her peers.
“Ivy has a comprehensive knowledge of music and basketball, plus she’s really clever with impeccable timing,” he said. “She’s a naturally-gifted entertainer and when you combine all of her talents, it allows us to deliver an exciting game experience that fans can’t get anywhere else. More importantly, Ivy’s a woman of great character and carries herself as a professional. We’ve always viewed Ivy as more than a DJ and we’re really proud of all her accomplishments both on and off the court.”
In an industry where males still dominate, Ivy said she’s an unapologetically zealous, faith-driven, multi-culturally-influenced student of her craft.
It’s in her DNA, she added, after overcoming many odds and circumstances throughout the first 29 years of her life.
“I think it’s important to teach kids that there are so many opportunities out there in the sports and entertainment world, and not just for athletes,” Awino said. “For every athlete, there are so many others who can qualify for professions and jobs in other areas of sports that aren’t on the court.”
Ivy was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and moved to Dallas when she was nine years old, where she mastered both the piano and cello before discovering her love for yet another instrument – turntables.
Dallas Mavericks communications coordinator Rachael Sklar was instrumental in Awino’s selection on this year’s list. The vetting process started four months ago, and she felt like Poizon Ivy definitely deserved the honor, but also realized the competition was steep. She said Mavs HQ erupted in cheers when the official list was released.
“Poizon Ivy has a far-reaching impact across the NBA, our community and Africa,” Sklar said. “No one deserves it more than her, and we had a huge celebration this morning when Forbes selected her. Passion is what drives Ivy and she always gives her entire heart and soul in everything she touches. She’s a constant reminder to young girls and boys that you really can achieve anything.”
In 2010, Ivy got her first break hosting her self-titled weekly online radio show, “Poizon Ivy After Dark” on WMUR, Marquette University’s student-run radio station. In a few short years, Ivy’s brand grew Milwaukee and opened for music headliners like Nas, Wiz Khalifa, Lupe Fiasco, B.o.B, J.Cole and Juicy J. She later became the in-arena DJ for the Dallas Wings during the WNBA’s historical 20th anniversary season.
Three seasons ago, she joined the Dallas Mavericks as the first female DJ in franchise history and the second female DJ in NBA history.
She carries one of the most unique roles in all of sports because she doesn’t just play music at games, but orchestrates emotions and an overall fan experience with sound effects and beats, all the while anticipating key moments like a dunk or momentum shift. She immerses herself in the game like an athlete, anticipating plays and injecting the best music or sound effect to seamlessly merge with the on-court action.
“A lot of people don’t know that I’m pretty much the in-arena sound director, like the musical director per se, because I don’t just play music,” she told Complex in a profile story about the entertainer. “A lot of teams do it different ways, but I’m the sole person responsible for audio in the AAC [American Airlines Center]. So a lot of teams have a team of me, like three or four people who do what I do, but I control all the in-game prompts.”
Forbes today released the ninth annual “30 Under 30” list after sifting through over 15,000 submissions and selected the 600 young entrepreneurs who are redefining what it means to innovate and lead by example in various business ventures.
“The Forbes 30 Under 30 list has become the preeminent recognition for the most up-and-coming visionaries, game-changers and pioneers the world has to offer – and we can’t wait to see what they accomplish next,” said Randall Lane, creator of the Forbes Under 30 franchise.
According to Forbes, each honoree under 30 years old was given an in-depth evaluation over the course of Forbes’ vetting process, leveraging the organization’s wide-reaching community of skilled reporters and trusted judges. Since the list’s inception nine years ago, Forbes has grown the 30 Under 30 alumni network to include more than 5,000 individuals around the world.
“It’s great that we have someone so dedicated to the people of North Texas and Africa,” Mavericks’ CEO Cynt Marshall said. “Ivy is an amazing person who gives her all to the Dallas Mavericks and the NBA. She knows how to effectively use her platform. We are really proud of her and how she represents our organization around the globe.”
Awino said she immediately understood it was a life-changing moment.
“I can’t even comprehend it,” she said. “It’s insane. My story is a collision of faith, fate and a relentless drive to overcome all odds. I am proud of so many things like in my life, like being a mother and I’m thankful that God has given me a platform to serve and love others. That’s what defines my personal life. But professionally, this is definitely one of the top highlights of my career. It hasn’t yet sunk in.”