For the past couple of summers, New York City’s basketball scene has received yet another bump its worldwide allure thanks to the “Black Ops“ pickup games at the Life Time Athletic gym in the Sky residential building. These runs move away from the rugged asphalt courts NYC is so known for and welcome NBA superstars LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Tim Hardaway Jr., Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, ”Hoodie” Melo and many more to the pristine Midtown gym. At its helm is trainer Chris Brickley, who works out hoopers, both pro and amateur, as well as celebrities and musicians at the same gym, making it a must visit for any famous basketball lover in the Big Apple during the offseason.
While Chris’s love for basketball goes back to his younger days as a kid in New Hampshire, his career as a personal trainer began with some help from Cleveland Cavaliers’ guard J. R. Smith. The two met through J. R.’s brother, Chris, who was once Brickley’s teammate at Louisville. Ten years and many more tattoos later, the two have formed a bond through basketball and fashion, the latter of which made its debut during this year’s New York Fashion Week.
Brickley’s streetwear imprint, Color Blind, has grown alongside his Black Ops initiative as celebs like Justin Bieber, Angela Simmons, Chris Brown, Dave East and many of the aforementioned athletes have all been seen sporting the brand. Now entering his own level of celebrity, we recently popped into one of Brickley’s training sessions–with none other than J. R. Smith of course–to talk basketball, his biggest challenges, where he plans to take Color Blind, and much more.
So, we know a little about your background — college hoops at Louisville, coach at D1 school Farleigh Dickinson, and player development for the Knicks. Tell us, why did you opt for the personal training route rather than coaching?
Player development and coaching are very similar. I did the coaching thing for seven years after college and learned a lot from two Hall of Fame coaches, Rick Pitino and Phil Jackson. I was really blessed that I was able to learn from two of the most successful coaches to do it. I figured I would make my own lane and focus on player development. Maybe one day I’ll go back to the NBA or college, but right now, everything is going great.
Because you work with some of the biggest names in pro-sports, what are some of the challenges or obstacles you often face when training them, or rather getting through to them?
Once we both agree to work with each other, it always goes smooth. I wouldn’t say there are any obstacles when training them. It just takes lots of hours preparing the workouts. I try to dissect their games as much as possible so I’m ready for any questions they might have. The challenges/obstacles come more through my personal life. I try to balance simple things like seeing my family, getting good sleep and spending time with friends. But sometimes, due to work, I don’t have much of that.
What do you enjoy most about your training endeavors?
What are you most excited for with the new NBA season just around the corner?
Being able to see the players’ hard work come to light. So many of them have spent a ridiculous amount of hours in the gym this summer and now it’s time to show the world the work they put in. That brings me happiness.
“As I started making collections, I didn’t want Color Blind to be strictly a brand that focused on racial profiling. I just wanted it to represent the light in all of us.”
Can you tell us about your clothing brand Color Blind? What made you start it and what’s it all about?
I’ve always been into fashion. My last season with the Knicks, around the time President Trump was being elected, [so] due to the rise in social media and how media is now, all the racial profiling issues were really coming to light. I was sitting in my bed one night watching the news, and I came up with a concept called Color Blind. The next day I got the words “Color Blind” printed on a sweatshirt. After a few samples, I found a font that I liked. I took a picture in the hoodie and posted it on my social media page. In the caption I just expressed how I felt at the time regarding those issues. I didn’t have any intentions on started a clothing brand…at all. The post did really well and I had lots of people asking me where I got the sweatshirt from. A few weeks after the post, I figured I would start a clothing brand named Color Blind.
As I started making collections, I didn’t want Color Blind to be strictly a brand that focused on racial profiling. I just wanted it to represent the light in all of us. A Color Blind customer might only be into fashion and not the message, but that’s fine with me. I didn’t necessarily want to push the race factor on people. Color Blind is what you want it to mean.
How do you see Color Blind solidifying it’s place in the streetwear world, with longevity being one of the most elusive traits in all of the industry?
One of the goals is definitely longevity. To me, in the streetwear world, many brands are hot for a year or two, then they lose their “cool” factor quickly and the brand becomes irrelevant. I don’t want that to happen to Color Blind. I want Color Blind to become a longstanding staple within the streetwear industry.
For a brand that melds trending streetwear with social commentary, how are you making sure that fans aren’t just buying into a slogan, but are contributing to the change you speak of?
I’m glad you brought that up. When someone buys a Color Blind piece, I don’t want it to be strictly because of the slogan. If they like the slogan, that’s a bonus. But I want Color Blind to be high-quality pieces that streetwear fans from all walks of life can wear.
With that being said, I’m currently speaking to a few gender equality foundations to collab with. I’m excited about that.
Between Black Ops and Color Blind, what can we expect from Chris Brickley in the very near future?
With Black Ops, I will continue to dedicate my life to helping as many players help themselves as I can. I want Black Ops to be known as one of the best in the business at developing NBA players.
With Color Blind, I have some dope collaborations coming out in 2019. It’s been a blessing that a few of my favorite streetwear brands have reached out about working together on a collection. I’m definitely looking forward to that.
In case you missed it, you can read up on issues between J.R. Smith and the NBA regarding his Supreme leg tat.