There’s a good chance that your
favorite NBA player has spent time in the gym with skills coach
Chris Brickley. After all, many stars have trained with Brickley or
participated in his open runs in New York. That includes LeBron
James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, Joel Embiid,
Kawhi Leonard, Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown, Devin
Booker, CJ McCollum, Trae Young, Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo
and D’Angelo Russell among others.
It’s also possible that your
favorite artist has hooped with Brickley, considering Travis Scott,
Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, J. Cole, Quavo, Meek Mill,
Trey Songz, Lil Durk, YG, Russ, Sheck Wes and Jack Harlow have shown up to work out or
play in pick-up games.
Brickley was a walk-on at the
University of Louisville who then made the transition to coaching.
After working as an assistant coach at the college level for
several years, he joined the New York Knicks as their director of
player personnel. Since leaving the Knicks to train players
individually, Brickley has become one of the biggest basketball
influencers in the world, with over 1 million followers on
Instagram and his own ESPN+ show (“Declared”). He’s also a brand
ambassador for a number of companies such as PUMA, Lids and, now,
Brickley just recently partnered
with BODYARMOR, becoming their latest ambassador. He joins an
impressive lineup that includes Harden, Mitchell, Young, Ja Morant,
Christian McCaffrey, Mike Trout, Kyler Murray, Mookie Betts and
Naomi Osaka among others.
BasketballNews.com caught up
with Brickley to talk about his career, his famous pick-up games,
his stint with the Knicks, his BODYARMOR partnership and much
You were the New York Knicks’ director of player
personnel before leaving to train players independently. How is
your job different when you’re running your own training business
versus working for an NBA team?
I would say that being part of a team, the goal is to win games.
You have players come in and out. I was with the Knicks for a few
years and we went through 40-to-50 different players. Now, having
my own business and doing the training, I know I’m going to have
[the same player] - whether it’s Donovan Mitchell or whoever - for
five, six, seven years. It’s kind of like a long-term thing and
you’re really invested in these players. They’re not going to get
traded and you don’t have to worry about contracts and stuff; I’m
just worried about getting them better. That’s kind of what I like
to do at this point, just lock in with the player and build a
relationship with them and develop their game… I just stay locked
in to what I do. I wake up in the morning, I talk to the players, I
watch games, I do what I need to do in terms of my partnerships, I
go to sleep and then it repeats.
Would you be open to working for an NBA team again if
the circumstances are right?
maybe in the future. Right now, I’m super happy where I’m at. But
maybe down the line. I wouldn’t X it out.
Fans don’t get a chance to see most of these offseason
workouts aside from a few clips on social media, so what are some
of the biggest misconceptions about NBA training and the work that
players put in?
don’t necessarily expect people to know how hard these guys work;
they aren’t going to brag about it. But for sure, to be in the NBA
and especially to be successful in the NBA, you need to have a
different type of work ethic. It’s not just playing games. It’s not
just doing workouts either. It’s watching film, it’s what you take,
it’s what you drink. For example, this BODYARMOR partnership that
we’re about to announce, what these guys put in their body
[matters]. It’s about being mindful in every single thing that you
do - from drinking the right thing to eating the right thing to
watching enough film to doing recovery and so on. It’s much more
than just basketball.
How did the BODYARMOR partnership come
super excited about it. I think it just makes sense since BODYARMOR
is kind of on the rise as a company. They’ve been on the rise; they
have everybody from Donovan Mitchell to James Harden to Trae Young
- it’s a really good roster of guys. I’d like to think that my
company and what I’m trying to build is on the rise too. We’re both
grinding to become the best in our fields. I know one of
BODYARMOR’s goals is, by 2025, to be the biggest sports drink in
the game. For me, my goal is to be the biggest trainer in the game.
It made sense and I’ve always been a big fan of BODYARMOR and I’ve
always drank it, so it’s very organic.
What advice would you give to aspiring
Brickley: That’s a good question. First, you need to be
passionate about the game of basketball. You have to be willing to
understand that you might work for 10 years and not make much
money. Things might not really get moving [for a while], so you
have to be willing to make sacrifices. You have to be willing to
sacrifice your time, sacrifice going out and partying, and things
like that. Because, first and foremost, if you want to be a
trainer, you need to put your time toward your players. If you
don’t have any players, how are you going to be a trainer? So you
need to dedicate your time to the players and show the players that
you’re always there for them any time. Do they want to watch film
late at night? Do they want to work out early in the morning?
Whatever time they want to watch film or work out, I’m going to be
ready. It’s just a big sacrifice. And you won’t see results for a
while. That’s something that I’d want to explain to a young
trainer: Don’t think that you’re going to sign deals or get rich or
anything like that, just be in it for the love of the
You’re basically on call 24/7. You’ve talked about how
Carmelo Anthony sometimes wants to work out at 2 a.m. and you never
say no. Do guys often reach out in the middle of the night? And
what is that like, being on call all day and night?
all the time. Living where the gym is, it’s a good thing and it’s a
bad thing. Guys know that [I’m always there]. Sometimes, guys will
be on the road during the season - especially pre-quarantine
- and they might play the Knicks or the Nets the next night and
while they’re in town, they want to get some work in at my gym in
New York City, at The Summit.
I read that you and Carmelo got close because you would
give him honest feedback and constructive criticism after games. I
feel like a lot of stars appreciate that since most people in their
life won’t say those things. How has that honesty helped your
relationships with players?
think you need to be, I think that’s how the relationship builds.
There’s no relationship that’s based off of, “Hey, good job! You’re
the man! Good job! Good job!” You’re never going to build an
organic relationship like that. I think you need to give
constructive criticism and you need to explain to them what the
real deal is. Like, “You didn’t play as hard as you should’ve
tonight,” or maybe, “You need to work on your pull-up off the left
and work on finishing with the right.” You can’t just start the
relationship like that, obviously, but as you get closer to someone
[you can be honest]. That’s what I do, and I think giving
constructive criticism works. It shows them that you’re paying
attention and that you want to help them get better as a person and
as a player, and I think they take a liking to that. And that’s
when you can get to work.
You’re known for having star-studded pick-up games in
your gym. What’s the craziest pick-up game you’ve witnessed? Is
there a certain game that stands out?
I’ve had a few legendary ones. When COVID isn’t in the way, there
are legendary ones every summer. If I had to pick, I’d go with this
one from 2017. KD had just won [the championship] and he beat
LeBron. That happened and then literally two months after that
series, LeBron and KD flew in and they played against each other.
They were guarding each other, picking each other up full-court.
There was a whole bunch of tension in the gym because they
literally just got done playing against each other for the
championship, and now they were playing in this private run against
each other. That’s something I’ll never forget. There were like 15
NBA guys there: Melo, J.R. Smith (who was also playing in that
series), Enes Kanter (who, at the time, had beef with KD), Hamidou
Diallo (who was in college at the time). There were all types of
I’ve talked to a number of players and trainers about
which position takes the longest to develop in the NBA. A lot of
people have said that big men take the longest since they need to
get bigger, develop lower-body strength and they are basically boys
among men when they first enter the NBA. Do you agree that big men
take the longest to become significant contributors?
especially because for big men, the game has changed. The game has
evolved even since I was coaching in the NBA. It’s tough to be a
big man who just catches the ball on the block and turns and
shoots. If that type of game was in, then Enes Kanter would be an
All-Star since he’s shooting like 60%. That’s just not how the game
is now. You need to be able to dribble a little bit and shoot
threes and pick-and-pop and knock down mid-range shots. It’s rare
to see teams dribble down and throw the ball into the post; nobody
really plays through the post now. Being a big - a real big, a
seven-footer - you need to develop a little more [than other
positions]. You might be really good at rebounding or you might be
really good defensively - there might be one thing that you’re
really good at - but it’s rare for a big to come into the league
being able to shoot the three, dribble (for dribble handoffs),
finish around the rim and play defense. As a big, you need to do a whole
bunch of things, so I think it always takes some time.
Yeah, someone like Kanter would’ve been dominant 20-30
You have a bunch of players who work hard, but is there
a certain player who has really impressed you with their work ethic
and hunger to improve? Is there anyone specific who stands
the top of my head, I would have to say Donovan Mitchell, who’s
also with BODYARMOR. I’ve worked with him since, shoot, 2015. I
worked with him back in his college days and just to see his
[improvement]... People were like, “He might go first round, he
might go second round; we don’t know.” I saw him work through that
and then have an amazing rookie year and still continue to work out
at 6 a.m. every morning. Then, he comes back and has another great
year and he’s back in the summer and still wants to work out at 6 a.m. every morning.
Then, he becomes an NBA All-Star! Through all of these amazing
things that he’s done, he hasn’t lost an ounce of motivation. When
the offseason comes, he’s texting me, “Ready to go at 5 a.m.? Ready
to go at 6 a.m.?” His work ethic is crazy. When I see that he’s an
All-Star and has his own sneaker and has his deal with BODYARMOR,
it just makes sense. He deserves it all.
What are your thoughts on how Donovan and the Jazz have
played this season? It’s been pretty incredible.
think he’s playing great, and they have the best record in the
league. I think [credit] goes to their coaching and Donovan’s
leadership, and the way they play - the way they move the ball, the
way they play defense. It seems like they’re playing faster this
year. It’s going to be interesting once the playoffs come because
there are a bunch of really good teams. Right now, the Jazz look