“Build Courts Not Walls”….
The gym at Breakthrough FamilyPlex community center is replete with motivational mantras and visages of iconic cultural figures from Chicago: Barack Obama, Chance The Rapper, Derrick Rose, Common. Located in West Garfield Park — a neighborhood known for its high homicide rate and low life expectancy — it’s far from the pomp and glitz of NBA All-Star Weekend. But it’s here, early Saturday morning (Feb. 15), where NBA trainer Chris Brickley wants to be.
“This is probably the most important event I’m doing,” he says. “This means the most. I’m here for one reason, and that’s to inspire.”
At 33, Brickley is creating his own blueprint for basketball that’s steeped in creating and nurturing relationships that transcend genre. As the first trainer signed to PUMA Hoops, he’s inextricably tied to music, culture and fashion. His gym at the Summit building in Manhattan is as much home to players like Kyle Kuzma, James Harden and Trae Young as it is for music’s biggest names. J. Cole loves to come through and it’s not uncommon to spot Meek Mill, Trey Songz or Travis Scott working out.
Who makes the best basketball play? @champagnepapi with the ball fake to make his defender turn around — to a knockdown 3 or @quavohuncho with the inside out in transition to crafty finish or @justinbieber with the advance pass up the court to ball fake to crossover then dime to @sheckwes ???? — @harrington1313
The latest celebrity pick-up match is one for the books — and, arguably, overshadowed the official All-Star Celebrity Game. On Feb. 6, he hosted Justin Bieber, Quavo and Drake in what he describes as a very “competitive” session. Brickley says that they played three games, up to 11 points. Drake and his OVO cadre took the first game and Bieber and Quavo’s team secured the final two. “The third game was super close,” he assures.
With so many hitmakers in one room, it was hard to find the perfect playlist to soundtrack the event. “I was stressing! I’m the DJ of the gym.” Brickley says he went with Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint and The Dynasty: Roc La Familia as well as a slew of Drake cuts.
“You can never go wrong playing old school Jay-Z in the gym,” he reveals, noting that he also gets requests for Lil Durk (“The best young players in the country are obsessed with Durk”), Jadakiss and Dave East.
The reaction to the celebrity game has been seismic. Brickley says artists and pros alike are now vying to get invites for the next one.
“I open my DMs and it’s the best rappers. The best singers. Veterans, new guys, I have everyone trying to get into my gym!” he laughs. “It still hasn’t set in.”