Feature No. 13 | May 26th, 2020
Growing up in the Middle East was super lowkey - weekends at the beach, playing ball & tennis, surrounded by family. Moving to NYC at 13 was definitely a cultural shock, the fast pace and completely new environment wasn’t easy to get used to. Sports was always the one constant thing in my life where I could just lose myself and focus on doing what I loved.
My dad and I used to record and watch Laker games when I was kid, I grew up on Shaq and Kobe. When we moved to NY, I realized how much this city loved basketball. It’s deeply embedded within the culture and day to day life. My first game at the Garden is the most memorable, I don’t think I'd ever been so happy and overwhelmed at the same time. I got there early and took it all in. There’s something so calming about an empty arena. That did it for me.
I was live tweeting games and engaging with every team’s fan base. Twitter is a different animal because so many players are constantly on and paying attention. After I noticed some athletes and major media members were following, I didn’t know anyone but I wasn’t scared to reach out. Personal interaction is huge for building a network in any industry and so is patience. Don’t be afraid to shoot your shot and wait for the right opportunity. For me the toughest part was making that first step. It wasn’t easy to explain to my parents either, because you’re either a lawyer or a doctor. SPORTS?!?!
The social media space is constantly evolving and changing. You can run someone else’s brand or build your own. It’s a process you have to be open to - surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and learn.
Ha. It’s a LOT of phone calls, meetings, and every day is different. I love the travel and busy game days (I think I’m 17 arenas in before completing all 30). The game doesn’t stop. I always say off season is my on season, I’m at camps, pick up games, 3x3 tournaments, I’ll pull up to a dunk practice too. Anything and everything.
On my end, I always try to bring in a unique aspect to a brand’s social/product strategy or to an athlete’s off court interests and highlight what they already have going on through PR; “connecting the dots” is my trade - it’s a great feeling when you can pick up the phone and know you’re a text or call away from a friend at BR, ESPN, SLAM, etc. The biggest thrill for me is always building a new brand concept up like we did with the Franchise Magazine team. That body of basketball artwork is timeless.
I love watching their growth and tenacity more than anything. They’re all so unique in their own way and have great people around them who are easy to work with. Aaron goes so hard on his music, Kelly leads the NBA fashion conversation anywhere he goes, DLo will absolutely destroy you in 2K and make you do push-ups after. They all work so hard on their game but there’s so much more off court. We did a ConverseHoops launch takeover in NY with Kelly last year, AG’s BallIsLife lifestyle feature in Orlando, collaborated with NBA illustrator Andrew Archer on a custom piece for DLo. I’m there for whatever. It could be a photographer for a shoot, an empty gym in the summer, or a contact for a brand.
I get emotional with Kobe. I’ll never forget the day he followed me on twitter in 2013 because he finally wanted to try social media out. We talked a little about ball and game of thrones during those years. I later got to meet him at his Dear Basketball premiere at Tribeca Film Festival and personally handed him a copy of Franchise, issue 1. I remember waking up to emails and texts about a photo Player’s Tribune captured on the red carpet with Kobe holding the magazine. I thought “my job here is done”. Months later at all star weekend in LA, I attended a private screening of the movie. He took some time to talk and I just remember standing there smiling up at him trying to look nonchalant as he’s giving me advice on creativity and storytelling. Classic Kobe. I still don’t know how I got through that moment. He had that special presence about him that felt like pure magic. The mamba mentality is in every aspect of my world. He’ll always be bigger than the game.