Pretty Wild: How Chris Brickley Made the New York Knicks Playoff Contenders

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My Monday started with a 6:12am Push Notification, rather than my 7:30am alarm.  Normally, this REM sleep destroying badading would be grounds to ruin the whole week, but todays unwelcome wake-up call was different.  “New York Knicks Advance to 8 Seed in the Eastern Conference.”  I’m still dreaming, right?

I rubbed out the eye boogers and took to ESPN, shocked to find that my dreamscape was a reality.  New York Knicks.  Playoff Contenders.  26 games in, we still can’t believe it’s happening and to quell the Cleveland, Boston, and Golden State fans…the difference is that we were NOT expecting this.   At best .500, but certainly no playoff potential this year.   All summer long, we read the headlines, and took the media as assurance, that we would, in fact, suck.  Melo out. D-Rose gone. Phil Jackson succumbs to narcolepsy and/or dementia. Draft no-name international with 1st round pick, ect.  By September, the roster looked painfully slim, and the holes were blaring.  It’s almost Christmas now, and I’ve since had my coffee…amazingly, I awoke an 8 seed.  It’s been a hot start, crusaded by our pet unicorn Porzingis, with support from return “star” Tim Hardaway and the newly anointed French Prince.  We are seeing success, albeit early, and it feels good.  Still though, it doesn’t add up.  In a world of Super Teams, where a lofty % our cap space is sitting on the bench with Joakim Noah, the Knicks are alive and in bloom.  How?  Two claps for Chris Brickley.

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Don’t go shopping for his jersey and don’t look for him on the Knickerbocker roster.  At most, Brickley is still one of those C-List celebrities who will walk by you on the street and warrant a double take, before leaving you flustered by your inability to label him.  Yet you recognize his tats, can’t miss his Nike Off-White Blazers, and holy shit, Lance Thomas is right behind him.  His 312k Instagram followers will later prove the 31year old celebrity basketball trainer is the real deal.  In elite basketball circles, Brickley is A-List, unequivocally evidenced by his recent texts to the all-star likes of Lebron, Melo, Harden, Kanter, and McCullom.    @cbrickley603 is now the premier NBA concierge of sorts or soi disant basketball influencer.  His beginnings, were humbler.

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After an All American High School career, followed by some tumult in his college days (bench rider for three programs), Brickley figured if the shoe fits, wear it, and transitioned into a coaching role under the tutelage of then only alleged child molester, Rick Patino.  After stints at Ole Miss and Farleigh Dickinson University, Brickley saw his career explode after linking with JR Smith for a PT Sesh, facilitated by Brickleys then teammate and JRs still brother, Chris.  JR was appreciative of Brickleys indiscriminate, unapologetic critiques on his game, and took a shining to the no-named white boy trainer, before bringing his fellow Knicks to their private sessions.  Brickley quickly found himself in high school gyms with half of New York’s starting roster, helping them develop their skills in a completely candid, intimate setting, which preludes his main value-add when compared to other coaching competition, trust. It wasn’t long until Brickley got the phone call that would change his life, from a -you guessed it – 212 number!  “Mr. Brickley, it’s Phil Jackson of the New York Knicks.  How’d you like to come work for me as a player development coach?”  Where the fuck do I sign!?  Now an official W2 employee of Madison Square Garden & Co., Brickley dons the role and takes his title seriously, bringing those intimate double-rimmed vibes to the sports Mecca, developing not just the players, but his relationships with them.

Leave it the The Man to still find a way to suck the fun out of what could be the world’s coolest job.  Now part of the entity, the Kool-Aid ceremony barred CB from posting any basketball related material to his socials, a PR straight-jacket that Chris foresaw as an issue from the jump.  Months later, on what had to be the least relaxing offseason day of his young life, Brickley phoned his mom to tell her that he was quitting his dream job, and that he would take the coaching thing alone, as Jackson, the Garden, and his taxes, were becoming a bit too overbearing for the social butterfly.  This is where I’d stare coldly stare into my mother’s eyes and sneer that “this is a business decision,” and digress to my 12-year-old days, slamming the door with a “you just wouldn’t understand Mom!”   When you have famous friends with payroll and clout, the entrepreneurial risk is somewhat mitigated.  Now his own LLC, Brickley opened his Rolodex and continued his private training business as if divorcing from the most prestigious sports venue in the world was obvious.  He now fills his iCal with 40 PT’s per week, holding figurative court on the literal court in the, you guessed it, private gym in his luxury Manhattan apartment building, Lifetime Athletic.   The clientele has only expanded, as word of mouth and virility, spread Brickleys message far and wide…I influence the best of the best.

Sorry for the history lesson, but dude deserves the crescendo.  The question now is, after leaving the Knicks, how is our 8 seed team of the same bloodline as Chris?  While I can only speculate on how good his personal sessions are, or if he develops their gameplay or not, I can firmly say that he helps create something through his influence. Culture.  There is a plethora of basketball white coats; an endless supply of coaches, trainers, analysts, and sports scientists who claim to be the holders of Antidote X in player development.  Heck, there are even college majors devoted to the craft and it’s even possible to get a doctorate in the exactly what Chris is doing.  But, in a world that is inundated with competition in literally every sphere, Chris is our maverick and the world is taking notice of something seldom, if ever found, in the roll he is playing.

Still humbled by his own development, Brickley will accredit his success and long-standing relationships with the pros to a few choice words that you’d probably see in any generic phys. Ed. Class…trust, motive, understanding, respect.  The difference maker, is two other words the normal octogenarian coach, with all of that boastful pedigree, won’t ever subscribe to.  Influence and Culture.  In tandem, these two words have enough inertia to move mountains. Brickley, as part of the millennial youth, is keen that these factors act as the perfect marketing plan to propel any business, service, or product from the start-up phase to an enterprise level business model.  When asked his exact job title, CB will report that he is simply a Basketball Influencer, and that verb has made all of the difference.  Here’s what makes Chris, Chris.

Culture:

In our recipe for 21st century media success, culture is the subliminal undertone that you need to be a part of to feel, and later, profit from.  This isn’t a new ingredient, as the social studies textbooks have been explaining and exploring the myriad cultures that span across both time and place.  A social framework of sorts, culture is all things mutually understood and exemplified by a mass of people.  While shared diet, language, and priority is the traditional definition, today, culture is best displayed by those who keep a thumb on the day-to-day beat of planet Earth and fortunately, has reached new levels of inclusion.  Radical government, laxed gender roles, increased social responsibility, and a willingness to oppose the standard are the topical and immediate extremities in question, but the main catalyst of this new-age ideal is the entrepreneurial zest in today’s populace.

Brickley gained immediate respect within the industry by his willingness to go Melo, and literally risk it all.  His disassembly from the Knicks struck a chord our generation, as our desire to self-alleviate our own woes, both financial and emotional, is the calling card of the millennial plight.  The establishment is great and all, and the benefits of joining rank are secure and stable, but entrepreneurship is the credo of todays business world.  While success is much harder found this route, those who conquer Goliath, share in spoils grander than any 9-5 can ever provide.   Chris is quoted time and time again as understanding that there is a culture IQ test that must be passed before the Hallmarks of trust and respect are ever earned.  This is something known that never needs to be said; like a police badge, it demands immediate attention.  Chris’ success is 50% indebted to his ability to meet the players on their own home courts, where the risk of the unknown plagued most minds set on playing pro sports.  The tattoos, shoe collection, clothing line, and celebrity friends are the accessories a Culture Card Carrier must provide, before gaining access to VIP.

Finally, in regard to culture, Chris’ role as an independent contractor, gives him a fiduciary relationship to the player, rather than a team.  He boasts that no two players will ever go through the same drills and calisthenics, as each player is seeking something different from the training.  A rookie seeking a starting job, a high schooler looking for scholarship money, and an all-star playing for a million-dollar contract are certainly not one in the same, so he handles his clients on a case-by-case basis.  Rather than the corporate cultures a player would receive by the team trainer, the private atmosphere allows for Chris to connect with his guys on a deeper level, and find the best fuel to fill the gas tank with.  The Knicks were ripe to gain the reward of Chris’ cultural connection, a word that had been missing in the locker room for years.  Having someone to talk pussy, money, and weed with is a catharsis from the normal chaos.  It alleviates pressure and opens the door to improvement.

Influence:

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If culture is the intangible, then influence is the measurable.  Ingredient #2 is the flavor that hits the pallet and sends a signal to the brain that **something is here**  Social Media is the medium for the anarchy, as people are now able to walk around with the eyes and ears of millions on their person at any minutes notice.  It’s all in the follow count, and just how far you are able to broadcast your message.  Influence is where the margins in millennial business lie, where premium pricing on premium product is growing in value like a damn BitCoin.  We see clout at play in countless situations in our day to day. Influence is what make your retail Yeezys jump from $200 dollars to over 1k in a night. Influence is what makes a talentless pod of Kardashian’s the modern-day Kennedys.  Influence is what makes a pretty girl with an iPhone an Instagram model, a SoundCloud rapper a chart topper, and a hashtag the new-age infomercial.  There is real weight here.

As his follower count rises by the second, his talent roster parallels.  In a tight knit community, it only makes sense that virility can drive business and peek interest amongst a group of piers.  Influence is Chris’ referral business.  His business cards are the endorsements from his current partners, and they omit the need to go out and hunt for new contracts.  Once the dominos of clout start to tip, growth can be exponential.  While we can’t attribute his success to pictures and videos, we can say that it didn’t hurt his growth.

The videos of his summer work outs and Black Ops training camps sparked a movement in the city, where NY, once again become a ballers travel desitnation of choice.  As New Yorkers, we are quick to pound our chests and play King of the Jungle.  This hotbed of activity will draw new talent to play for Blue and Orange, so his influence, will remain long after he is gone.

It’s a fun time to be alive, whether you are getting paid to hoop or just watching others play the game.  When it comes to guys like Chris Brickley, his impact within his industry can’t be understated.  He admits that he can’t always expect business to be this strong, but counts the blessings he has received each and every day.  In terms of his hand in the Knicks string of W’s, it’s totally remnant.  Left over spoils, from his days on the staff roster.  He has made busy NYC a basketball oasis, and put New York ball back on the map like Melo was slated to do.  His clients receive calls after each game to hit the drawing board and find the areas of improvement.  This form of professional coddling has helped his players progress and find a new meaning to play.  While a quick work out can be offered by hundreds of trainers, Chris is using tools only he has, to fix the mess that was the New York Knicks.

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See you in the playoffs.

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