Best described as a celebrity table tennis pro/entertainer, Wally grew up in the Marlboro Projects in Brooklyn where he was confronted by gangs and violence on a daily basis. But just like the title of his upcoming autobiography says, he went from the pistol to the paddle and he hasn’t looked back.

Representing the US in several international competitions around the world, Wally is a fierce competitor and one of SPiN’s most recognizable ambassadors. He’s even competed recently in North Korea as the only participating westerner. When asked why he decided to go, he responded with “Ping pong diplomacy. I’m going to make them love me.”

Wally is also a hip-hop artist who recently released the world’s first rap song about ping pong, called “A Game Nobody Knows.” He believes not just in the sport but in the aspirational sentiment ping pong represents; a cool, hip, and entertaining way that anyone, no matter who they are, can enjoy.

When and why did you start playing ping pong?

I am a self-taught player who began at the age of 18. I never thought in a million years I would be playing such a sport. When I was in high school I used to laugh at the nerdy kids playing in the lunch room. “Short shorts and a stick!?” That was no sport for me! I played on almost every junior varsity and varsity team in my school. Sports ranging from basketball, football, wrestling, volleyball and tennis. When I tried ping pong for the first time, I successfully smashed the ball, which was a huge surprise to the other players. Beginners luck? Nah, I was born to play.

What has ping pong taught you the most?

Ping pong has taught me a lot but the most important thing, is tolerance for others and to celebrate the differences across cultures. Since ping pong is the second biggest sport in the world after soccer, people from every corner of the globe play. So it’s only natural that in this environment you’ll get to meet so many people from so many different countries.

Where do you see ping pong going?

Ping pong has lots of potential to become a mainstream sport in America. What it’s lacking now is the entertainment value, which is one of our goals here at SPiN. We want to provide that entertainment value for our customers by taking away some of the seriousness of the sport and to make it fun for everyone.

What do you love most about ping pong?

My number one love for this sport comes from the fact that it saved my life. If it wasn’t for this ping pong, I would most likely either be dead or serving time in jail.