For those who don’t know you, how would you describe your attributes, role and journey to where you are now?
My nickname growing up was the “Multi-talented Gentleman”, I was good at a lot of things. That lifestyle followed me throughout though it became a burden since there were so many areas I could succeed. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I had to pick a direction. The skill that stuck out after college was graphic design. That was something I decided to take on as a hobby and quickly developed into a lifestyle. I started to brand myself and create an entity that allowed me to meet many great people.
That's actually how I met Naya who is the Media Director at Dyckman. We met through a mutual friend and had an instant connection. When she decided to start building the media team she knew I had a love for basketball and creative direction which allowed me to be a great fit for the job. She invited me to the park one day. I’m from Brooklyn and going uptown to Dyckman is not something we normally do. The experience was so amazing that I couldn’t deny that I wanted to be a part of it in some capacity. At first, I was just a graphic designer, but my role developed into being an Assistant to Naya and creative lead for Dyckman Basketball.
You mentioned being from Brooklyn. How has that shaped your view on the game?
I honestly believe that out of the five boroughs, Brooklyn has the best competition. I went to Lincoln High School so I was in the trenches with all of the Coney Island hoopers. Lincoln sent 4 players to the NBA within a 20-year span, so I knew going to Lincoln would make me a better basketball player no matter what the circumstances were. I would also say going to different parks and neighborhoods and being forced to play with confidence built toughness. Brooklyn taught me that. Being from where I’m from you either get bullied or be a bully. That's how I play, even at the guard position, I still knew how to play tough and not back down.
Besides your Brooklyn influence, did you model your game after any particular figures?
Dwyane Wade was my favorite player growing up. I modeled my whole game after him, from the euro step to the half spin into the jump shot, pump fake into the contact shot, I did it all. People knew that certain moves were coming but he taught me to be relentless. I was taking body contact even as a slim kid. I willed myself to emulate Dwyane Wade.
I’m more of a rhythm player from mid-range. You know, between the leg pull-up jumpers, things of that nature. Catch and shoot wasn’t really my thing, although I'm way better at it now. Though A.I was the model player for us shorter guys I didn’t want to play like him too much. I like to share the ball, doing more team things. That pushed me more into the Dwayne Wade category. In short, my game models 06’ D. Wade.
Dyckman has a reputation for big moments. Which ones meant the most to you?
It’s one big show to me because I’m there every day now. Every day it’s something, from walking celebrities in, to NBA players coming to the park. Those things you can’t forget. I can definitely say the 2019 Championship game was crazy. It was the first championship game that I was able to see. It sticks out to me because if you’ve ever been to the park you know when it gets super packed and the sidelines disappear. It becomes an oval. We call it the Oval for that reason.
As much as we tried to contain it and keep it to a respectable basketball court, it's hard to deny people who came to watch so we deal with it. However, the game still went on as it should have. It was Skull Gang vs. PTG 365. Lance Stephenson, Mike Poole, and Isaiah Washington were playing on the PTG that year and they won the championship.
Where do you draw inspiration from when it comes to art and how you portray Dyckman?
Simple and effective is my thing when it comes to design, I don't like to complicate things too much. When I first got to Dyckman I knew it was my job to enhance the artistic look. I wanted to create things that remind people of the park. One thing you will notice is that a lot of the graphics are court green. I wanted people to look at the designs and say, “Yeah that's the park.” I actually just made a t-shirt based on this concept. The Scoreboard is something that everyone looks at in the park. I made a shirt featuring the scoreboard that we are selling at the park. I like to keep things simple and I want people to be able to know exactly what's going on.
Another thing is that I utilize photos from the media team. We work hand and hand. We have great photographers. They all have their own styles but I like to combine them with my graphic design and it’s a match made in heaven. I'm in charge of “Player of the Game” graphics as well. I love stepping to the player of the game, getting their picture taken, and creating the graphic that goes up the next day. My simplistic style has been very effective and reminiscent of the park. I notice in sports, people try to do too much and it becomes distracting. I really don’t know what the artistic direction was before myself but I'm thankful for the opportunity to play a part in today’s process.
What were some obstacles you’ve overcome along your journey?
My neighborhood first and foremost. That's most of our stories where I am from. People who have succeeded from my side of Flatbush and the other neighborhoods like Canarsie, Brownsville, etc. had to choose between being in the streets and staying there or being that person who has street smarts but knows there is more out there. That’s where I fell. I was definitely involved in a lot of neighborhood antics when I was younger. Sooner or later I had to make a decision, I either had to move differently or be in the streets. I chose basketball and it wasn’t a hard choice. Being young and impressionable you kind of just say, “Hey my friends are doing it why can’t I?” “Should I go to practice or not?” I dealt with those thoughts all the time.
When I got older and went to college I dealt with a different type of depression. I never understood what depression was until I got to college. I was away from my family and things weren’t going the way I wanted to. School was hard. I had to pass but I wanted to be social. Do I want to play ball for the rest of my life? I’m having all of these thoughts. I became interested in things like being a student leader and joining school organizations.
As a result, the challenge hit me because I spent so much time playing basketball that I had to find balance. You don’t have to do two a day every day. You can practice, do homework and then chill. Maybe go to a school forum and learn something new. These are all things that I'm telling myself. I literally learned how to write emails in college and things of that nature. The experiences and the networking that came from college I can’t replace. So, I dealt with the pressure of deciding not to play basketball anymore and it ate me up. I pushed through and it’s still a daily battle. I’m still figuring some things out about myself even at 30.
How do you maintain balance in your life while performing your current roles and talents that you display?
Honestly, playing basketball. Going to an open run or shooting around for an hour or two is me deciding I am no longer doing anything for anybody. It’s Kojo time right now. This is what I’m going to do, my mind is clear and I’m at peace just hooping. I wake up at 8-9 am, from the time I’m up until my body shuts down I’m working. I’m working for long stretches of time and when I decide to say no, that is how I maintain balance. I set those boundaries and say I'm not doing said task today or right now. I allocate time to myself. I don't even play video games anymore. If I have any free time I want to be outside. Especially after the pandemic. It made us immobile so now I’m more focused on leaving. I’ll go for a drive, play some ball, just allocate time for myself to maintain balance.
Any advice for those looking to progress in their field?
This was passed on to me in a period when I needed advice. My older cousin who is a mentor to me told me nothing grows in its comfort zone. Being uncomfortable has forced me to be better and grow from the situation. I was told, "if you have wet socks on you don't keep them on, you find a way to dry your feet." The minute you feel yourself being comfortable and things are too easy, put yourself in a position where you aren't comfortable so you can work out of those situations.
As an artist and basketball enthusiast combining the two fields commonly comes in the form of sneakers and gear. What sneakers do you like yourself or on others?
Good question. Before the hypebeast era, everyone knew I was a Kobe 6 head before it was cool to wear them. Those are the sneakers I truly had some of my best games in, styled the right way, etc. I had a green pair, a purple pair, a black pair, a silver pair, so many pairs of them. They used to be affordable too! The low-top sneakers weren't my thing until the Kobe 6’s came out. I used to play in Hyperdunks and all of that but when I put on the Kobe 6’s it was just my thing. I was able to get the Kobe Grinches last Christmas and I hadn’t worn them until recently in the Ghana vs. Nigeria game that Instagram threw here in Brooklyn. I threw them on and everyone was like, “Yo! You're finally wearing them sneakers? No way!”
I always told people I’ll put them on if I play in something meaningful. I love the sneakers and everyone should try to hoop in them at least once, and if not I’d say the Jordan 9s. I’m a big sneakerhead and everyone knows that. A true sneakerhead, been in my blood since I was a kid. I have over 70 wearable sneakers and shoes. I have on my Cool Grey 11s right now! Sneakers have always been my thing but I can't even buy them because of the way the sneaker game is. I am very anti-resell. I’ll do it if it's necessary but I’m not paying anything that isn't the retail price for a sneaker. But yes, to get back on track, Kobe 6s are my sneaker.
Anyone you want to give a shout out to or thank?
My family, my mother, and my father. The sacrifices they’ve made never go unappreciated. My cousin Albert who I spoke on earlier. Also, my brother and sister who always had my back. We’re a close-knit Cancer family and all of our birthdays are a week from each other. Definitely, Naya Stevens, she's the reason we’re having this conversation right now. Her giving me the opportunity to rock with her and Dyckman Basketball has re-energized my love for the game in a new way. I'm always thankful for her allowing me to be a part of what I think is the best streetball tournament to exist.