Erin Schiffman has become an integral figure in the New York City basketball community. Her passion for basketball, combined with her dedication to sharing the stories of remarkable New York talents, has established her as a trailblazer in the sports industry and a source of inspiration for many, including her two sons.
Erin is the Co-Founder of Schiffman Creative and The Ballers Journal. She has worked on creative projects from global brands to local basketball legends and photographed talents such as Julian Champagnie, guard for the San Antonio Spurs, Fat Joe, Kobe Bryant, WNBA stars and many more. Erin’s work is inspirational; she shines a light on talented individuals whose hard work and perseverance would otherwise not be brought to a brighter light without her lens.
During my interview with Erin, she highlighted that it was not only her personal grit that has gotten her to where she is today but the grit and support she has received from family, friends, mentors, business partners and her community.
“My goal is to always show love and support to the NYC basketball community, but I would absolutely not be doing any of the things I am doing without the community loving and supporting me back. It is always bigger than me and my work.”
Tell us your origin story. How did you progress your career to the way it is now?
I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family. My grandparents owned several businesses, and I had always just wanted to work for myself. I went to college at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and got a degree in Fashion Merchandising Management. While I was there, I did several internships, and after graduation I ended up working at PR and Marketing firms in New York City.
After gaining a little bit of knowledge and experience in the corporate world, my business partner and I decided to start a graphic design small boutique agency.
What really started the whole basketball thing was my move from Pennsylvania to Kansas. When I moved to Kansas, I fell in love with the Kansas Jayhawks, like In love In love. That's what truly sparked my passion for college basketball.
Fast forward back to NYC, started the company, got married, had kids, and my oldest son started playing basketball. He ended up joining a team in Harlem, The Milbank Flyers. We spent a lot of time at practices so I started meeting and talking to some really interesting people that had really amazing stories or were doing really amazing things within the community. And, you know, a lot of those people that give so much don't get a lot of love and light on them because they're in the daily grind, really working hard to provide opportunities for the youth. I thought it was really cool to see what they were doing and to share those stories.
You have paved the way for yourself and many others looking to work in the world of basketball through your work in The Baller’s Journal. How would you describe The Baller’s Journal? What drives it?
It started out talking to people at practices and games, and then taking photos and from there it's really taken on a life of its own. I think the thing about the Ballers Journal is that it's really powered by passion and love for the game and the community. That's really the biggest thing. I never looked at it as a business opportunity. A lot of people come to me and say, 'Oh, you could be making money. You could be doing this or you could be doing that.' And maybe I'm missing out as a business person, but that was never really why it started. It was really about showing love and passion for the game and the people that make the game a reality in NYC. That's really what has driven it.
(Not sure if this is important to mention… I have been hired based on the work I have done for The Ballers Journal, but TBJ itself does not generate profits.)
In my personal life, I'm very spiritual, so I feel like the journey that the Ballers Journal has taken has really been out of my hands. I kind of just allow it to lead me to the next stop and see where it takes me. And it's, it's kind of incredible looking back, to see all of the things that we have been able to be a part of. I have met so many amazing humans and there are some incredible moments that I've been able to capture, which I feel so grateful and honored to have been a part of. I have made some really great friends that I cannot imagine not having in my life thanks to The Ballers Journal. It's truly is a passion-fueled adventure for me.
The style of basketball played worldwide is so diverse. The style of basketball played in Atlanta is very different from that I’ve seen in the PNW, which is also very different from New York. What makes New York basketball so special to you?
I think it's a couple of things, right? One, it's New York City, and there's no other place like it in the world. The energy here is off the charts. People take streetball really, really seriously, from the little kids all the way up to the pro level. There's so much passion and energy involved, and that is so contagious. I just love the energy in the parks. It's highly competitive, and you get to witness really great basketball. There's nothing else like it.
It's hard to describe or put words to how much I love, love, love New York City basketball!. The music. The fashion. The sneakers! The other thing that really stands out here is the people. They make it so interesting and entertaining. There are so many great stories, personal stories of some of the coaches or players that grew up in the city and the adversity they faced or the success they’ve had. The brotherhood and sisterhood that exists within the city is remarkable. A lot of people have known each other forever and have a million stories to share. There's just so much diversity in their stories, and I find it so interesting to talk to them and learn more about the history of the game in the city and the people that have made it what it is today. As well as watch the next generation of NYC legends grow up! I'm constantly learning, and that's another great thing!
The work you do is so much bigger than basketball. It is meaningful and really impacts people's entire lives. Can you speak to the impacts your work has had on various individuals and on the NY community as a whole?
It's so much bigger than basketball. That's the whole point of this journey and the Ballers Journal. It has always been about what's behind the game, what's underneath it all—the people, the connection, the passion, the energy, the countless hours, the give back, the dedication, the devotion and the love. There's so much that goes into the game, and that's what fascinates me. Those stories are what's truly captivating.
For example, when I went to shoot Tre Mann for his draft party, I had never been more afraid in my life. I was petrified, struggling with imposter syndrome, feeling like I wasn't good enough. I questioned why I was even doing this and who I was —a girl with a camera, possibly out of her league. But I pushed through the fear and got it done. With the help of my dear friend and mentor, Nicole Sweet!
I was really, really proud of the photos I captured that night, and the entire draft experience will stick with me forever. The photo of the night was the moment he got drafted. Incredibly nerve wracking! But I got the shot. His dad came to me and said, 'This may be one of the best photos my family has ever had. Thank you so much.' I will never, ever forget that moment. I walked away and burst into tears, especially as a basketball mom. That's every parent's dream for their child who plays basketball and it was incredible to witness and capture it!
There's no other way to explain moments like that than to say it's beyond me. I truly feel like we are put in situations where we're destined to be, and we just have to show up and do the work. I'm forever grateful for those moments because I've learned so much and pushed myself through so much. I'm still learning, still pushing, even at my age, even as a mom.
There are beautiful moments. Take high school coaches, for example. It's so much bigger than the game for them. They are molding young men and women, helping to build character, discipline, determination, and talent. There's so much more that goes into it, especially in urban areas like New York City. Many of these kids are coming from underprivileged neighborhoods, and these coaches are saving their lives or helping them get to the next level. That's the stuff that motivates me and drives the passion.
Working in the sports industry, especially as a woman, is full of obstacles and obstructions. How do you stay motivated and positive?
So one of my biggest phrases that I say all the time, and I preach it to my boys every single day, is 'Lessons, not losses.' I live by that. I have a ton, a ton of bad content, a ton of blurry pictures, a ton of failed projects, a ton of embarrassing moments, tons. But without all of those, I wouldn't learn, and I wouldn't be where I am now. I wouldn't be able to even do the things I do now without all of it…The wins and the losses."