The future is Jaylen Brown.
Earlier in his career, Jaylen Brown might have tried to return sooner from the hamstring strain that he suffered in Miami on November 4th. Initially, a 1-2 week recovery timetable was established. Ten days in, he was itching to get back. Just shy of the initial two-week diagnosis, he missed a game in his hometown of Atlanta. The Celtics labeled him as questionable heading into a Friday night primetime matchup with the Lakers, but he would ultimately be held out again.
He finally returned to the floor on Monday night after missing eight games over eighteen days. Despite champing on the bit to come back, the six-year pro was patient in his rehab, trying to assure that the injury wouldn’t nag him for the rest of this season and his career. It’s that deliberate approach that Brown has subscribed to in his on court pursuits and his bold entrepreneurial vision off the floor that has often separated the 25-year-old from his peers.
Between the lines, his progress has been a model of player development. He’s spent summer after summer slowly adding elements that lead to an All-Star election last year. Between his rookie and sophomore season, he added a three-point shot. That created more space for his game. From Year 3 to Year 4, he tightened his handle and footwork. Now, he can navigate the entire floor at will. From last year to this year, playmaking has become his priority and this is often the final step of NBA stardom: building something from the ground up — not just for yourself, but so that others can succeed around you.
At times, the boldness of Brown’s entrepreneurial spirit may be lost in its lack of immediate impact. On the basketball court, the Berkley product didn’t exactly blossom as quickly as many expected. After averaging under 7 points per game in his rookie season, many considered him a bust as the #3 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but after being a key member of an Eastern Conference finalist team the year after, no one can question Brown’s steady commitment. Off the court, Brown isn’t looking to just find gold and strike it rich overnight either.
With his shoe deal with Adidas ending last summer, Brown is now a sneaker free agent. It’s not a decision that he takes lightly or one motivated by dollar signs. “I’m at the point in my career where I’ve been able to establish my brand, so I want the shoe company that I go with to match some of my brand values. Some brands have an expectancy where ‘we’ve been this brand, we’re not doing anything differently.’ I think it’s a new day and age,” Brown said of his future footwear plans.
“I think the current athlete, the model of an athlete has changed a lot. I’d like to represent that in order to be a voice on and off the court. I think that things should match that energy, so I’m looking for shoe company that’s progressive, cutting edge that keeps an open mind and that’s also leaning towards doing things in the community as well as environmentally friendly, sustainable, recyclable, biodegradable products. I’m looking for the brand of the future, not the brand of the past.”
To wit, Brown has been careful cultivating that brand. His 7uice Foundation has directed its focus on “positively affecting the lives of ‘at risk’ children and young adults through educational, athletic and social programs.” Like his social media handle “FCHWPO” suggests, the foundation is not a charity that just targets areas of need, but is rooted in the belief that “Faith, Consistency, and Hard Work Pay Off.”
In the offseason, Brown spent the summer creating a bridge program at MIT for Boston’s inner city kids to provide the tools to succeed beyond high school. Education is priority for Brown so that, as his older brother Quenton who acts as the director of the foundation suggests, the students “know they can control their own narrative.” It’s that common thread that’s weaved throughout everything Brown does: target investment now into something that will grow exponentially later. That entrepreneurial spirit is also embodied by his product line.
This summer, 7uice partnered with Klaviyo, a local sales analytics tech startup, and opened a pop-up retail store in Boston’s Seaport Commons district. It’s an initiative to showcase up-and-coming local businesses and provide them real time retail data and eliminating the sale of customer information to a third party. The hope here is that given the right tools to succeed, the apparel enterprise will be able to expand independently and on its on merit. 7uice is not some self-promoting venture for Brown either. Unlike many athletes’ brands, his likeness doesn’t appear on the merch. Instead, it’s guided by Brown’s worldview:
“The most positive vibes to you for appreciating all the hard work put into making these products possible. Remember, 7uice is your energy it can never die, it can only be transferred. Your 7uice lasts forever…”
Work in will work out. The energy never dies in everything Jaylen Brown does. In his return from injury Monday night, Brown tallied a cool 19 points in 23 minutes. His body wasn’t 100% and he knows there’s still work to be done on his body and the team. It was a modest showing for the Celtics’ second-leading scorer and more importantly, foundational piece to the franchise, but a step in the right direction nonetheless and if we know anything about Jaylen Brown, something bigger is coming.