Let’s start out with some vulnerability, we’re all friends here, right? This is my third attempt at writing this piece. I tossed the previous two attempts because they didn’t feel genuine and true to who I am. Why am I struggling to write about the adidas Legacy program, a program I’m deeply passionate about? I’ve been a part of Legacy since its inception in 2017 and I’ve watched it grow from being a one-city, grassroots basketball initiative to a cross-functional, fully funded platform that reaches multiple cities in America.
For those who are unfamiliar, the adidas Legacy program is designed to impact the lives of Black and Latinx high school basketball players in underrepresented communities, by providing tools, resources, and unique access to the adidas brand. Legacy reaches 1,000+ student-athletes and coaches per year, in communities who need support the most. The soul of adidas Legacy is built on basketball, community, and impact. My soul is built of my history with basketball, my community, and the impact I receive from the people around me. Yet, still, I’ve sat here at my desk, staring at this computer screen, struggling to find the words I want to share.
So, bear with me. Let’s riff for a bit, to get the juices going, and humor me while I tell you some Legacy stories I love. Maybe I’ll find my flow along the way.
Creating memories for our adidas Legacy athletes
In 2018, one of the dopest moments the brand has ever created was 747 Warehouse St., an activation for All-Star Weekend in LA. We invited our Legacy student athletes and hooked them up with full access to the premiere hype event of the year. We observed in awe as the student athletes navigated a full day of mind-blowing experiences. They explored the activation with pride, as highly visible VIP lanyards dangled from their necks. These young men and women exuded a VIP vibe because they knew in our space, that’s exactly what they were.
I watched from the top corner of the Pharrell basketball court as celebrities and crowds alike moved in waves towards their youthful energy. They owned that space. Others came to them. I would look over and see JuJu Smith Schuster turnt up in a dance circle with Legacy kids, or the OMG moment when Kanye West casually walked by and nodded at the group. Seen. Acknowledged. It was joy. It was excitement. This was their world in every way, even our top tier brand partners were living in it.
There was also that one time in New York City, when Damian ‘Dame’ Lillard showed up to a Legacy event the night before his big game at Madison Square Garden. Though Dame is an all-star NBA player who was doubted by teachers and coaches alike, he passionately invests his time in Legacy athletes to show them their experiences are more similar than different. The Legacy student athletes didn’t know he was coming. When he walked in, they absolutely lost it! Five minutes of screaming and excitement… the kind of uninhibited joy that only young folks exude. And as immediate as that excitement came, it quickly turned to just humans in the same space being real and sharing their familiar stories. Intimate. Real. Safe.
There was also that time I took a major L in the first year of Legacy where I completely forgot to include sports bras for our young women’s seeding kits. Note to self: diversity must be in all decision-making rooms or you risk excluding critical groups of people.
Guiding careers to make a lifelong impression
And I can’t NOT talk about World’s Best Career Day in 2020. Which, to date has been the pinnacle moment of Legacy. adidas athletes, creatives, entertainers, and internal employees were in one place at one time, teaching our Legacy student athletes about career paths within the sports and entertainment industry. It was a full day of hands-on learning and constant reminders that they are the future leaders of the business and creative world.
You know those moments in life, where you stop and think, “right now, I’m purely content?” That was World’s Best Career Day for me. Where NBA players and A-listers walked through a door, shedding their celebrity skin and leaving it outside. Everyone came with open minds and hearts, ready to learn and share their journeys.
Ok one last one. That day we found out we secured a million-dollar Legacy scholarship fund. Damn, that’s what this is all about! It provides the opportunities for those next steps in life. It doesn’t have to be a four year college degree, it could be trade school or apprenticeship, whatever their plans are, they can apply for the scholarship. And that butterfly effect has immeasurable possibilities for the students and their communities.
Ok yeah… now I’m flowing. Insane memories. A blessing to witness and a gift to be a part. I truly look forward to what’s to come.
Why I believe in Legacy
Alright. Now the hard part. It’s starting to become clear why I struggled to write this piece. Because I’m not sure we should be telling this story to begin with. What the adidas Legacy program does is simply the right thing to do. Should anyone get credit for doing what’s right?
But Legacy isn’t about me and it’s not about adidas. Legacy is about the thousands of student athletes that we’ve reached. This is their story. And one thing I do know is that intentions matter. Goodness grows from pure intent and the adidas Legacy program was birthed with that in mind.
The path forward was paved for me by the strong Black leaders within the industry, including the coalition of adidas employees who spoke up for us, and the adidas brand that listened and responded with yes’ instead of no’s. Now, with pride and sincerity, I can say that our work has just begun, and we will continue to pave the path for young men and women who are preparing to come behind us.