Former Pro Basketball Player TJ Stukes Takes His Talents to 'Squid Game: The Challenge'

'Squid Game: The Challenge' sees 456 players compete for a prize, and one of the contestants is former professional basketball player TJ Stukes.

Allison DeGrushe - Author

Nov. 20 2023, Published 2:00 p.m. ET

The Gist:

  • Squid Game: The Challenge sees 456 players compete to win a cash prize of $4.56 million.
  • One of the contestants is former professional basketball player TJ Stukes.
  • TJ "Tomohawk" Stukes played most of his professional career with the Harlem Wizards.
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Before diving into a second season of its mega-hit South Korean series, Netflix is shaking things up with Squid Game: The Challenge. In this wild reality competition show, 456 players battle it out for a chance at bagging a mind-blowing $4.56 million — the biggest cash prize ever seen in the epic realms of reality TV and game shows!

One of those contestants competing for the cash prize is former professional basketball player TJ Stukes. Read on to learn more about him and his experience on Squid Game: The Challenge.

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Who is former basketball star TJ Stukes from 'Squid Game: The Challenge'?

TJ Stukes hails from the Bronx, N.Y., and grew up in the foster care system in both Mount Vernon and the Bronx. With a natural athleticism, he stands tall at 6'8 and weighs 250 pounds, so there's no denying TJ can effortlessly excel in a few children's games, including "Red Light, Green Light."

He studied at Independence Community College and Pittsburg State University in Kansas, where he met his lovely wife, Samantha. Together, they are proud parents to two children, Amare and Alana.

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TJ played professional basketball for two decades, spending more of his career with the Harlem Wizards. For those unaware, the Wizards are a comedy basketball team that tours the United States and aims to entertain the crowd via basketball tricks and alley-oops. TJ officially retired in March 2023.

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He currently serves as an assistant coach on the Northern New Mexico College men's basketball team. Funnily enough, TJ's wife, Samantha, is the head coach of the NNMC women's basketball team!

In his spare time, TJ loves spending time with his family and furthering his acting career. He's been in several projects, including an Adidas commercial and the Netflix sports dramedy film Hustle with Adam Sandler.

TJ said 'Squid Game: The Challenge' pushed him beyond his limits.

Ahead of the series premiere, TJ Stukes told the Northern New Mexico College that Squid Game: The Challenge was a "whirlwind" and changed his life. He revealed that the reality competition show pushed him to his limits, claiming that the show challenged him further than anything ever before.

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"I played pro for 20 years, and I've pushed myself over and over and over again to smash through my ceiling," he told the college news outlet. "This was the furthest I've ever pushed myself in anything I've ever done in my entire life. Just that first game, I curse myself out maybe thousands of times. Pushing myself and hitting that ceiling face first and then smashing through it over and over again, over and over again, in just the first game."

"Just to put the realization of how intense this whole experience was, it completely changed my outlook on life. 180. It made me appreciate what I did have and appreciate also what I don't have," TJ said. "I'm glad to say that I represented the people around me with honor, with respect and humility."

Watch Squid Game: The Challenge on Netflix.

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