Fitted in Palm Angels sweatpants, LaMelo Ball Pumas and covered in tattoos, Chris Brickley barks out cadences to Miami Heat forward Kevin Love. At the age of 35 and a 15-year vet, Love is in the twilight of his stellar NBA career. He is looking for any advantage he can get to maintain his position in the loaded Heat rotation.
Enter Brickley, who over the past decade has turned into a must-stop destination for high-level basketball players looking to improve their games.
“Chris’ approach to the game and attention to detail make him different than other trainers,” Love said. “He is consistently wanting to get better. He works every single day on bringing guys from every level in here. I think he understands that he can learn from every player that he works with while continuing to evolve and have guys sharpen their games.
“He’s worked with most of the stars in the NBA,” Love said. “He goes hard with these guys and it’s a beautiful thing to see. He inspires you, teaches you new things, and gets you out of your comfort zone. We have continuous movement, less rest time, longer workouts and must make more shots. It is all about him understanding the grind we go through. The energy is always consistent with Chris.”
Brickley’s list of clients reads like a who’s who in the elite basketball world. It is almost easier to name the star players who haven’t hit up Brickley to get some work in than to name all the ones who have.
The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, LeBron James? Check.
Kevin Durant, who despite being 6-foot-10, has the shooting ability and footwork of a guard? Check.
University of Connecticut women’s basketball standouts Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd? Check.
Current high school star and University of North Carolina commit Ian Jackson? Check.
In an era where it seems every former Division I player is marketing themselves as a trainer, why is Brickley in such high demand?
Sure, he can sharpen your handles and make your jumper wet, but simply put, working out with Brickley is a vibe. During his session, Love knocked down 3-pointers while 50 Cent’s iconic album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” blared in the background.
“Although I didn’t select it, this was like the fifth time in a row that album was on while I trained,” Love said.
Interns are on the court to help with the workout as well as a photographer/video person.
To refer to Brickley as a skills coach is selling him short. He’s the perfect example of when sports, music and culture come together.
NFL legend Tom Brady recently got shots up with Brickley. Actors and rappers contact him for gym time.
He has over two million followers on Instagram. His “Black Ops” open runs feature the offseason matchups that were previously only reserved for video games. Speaking of video games, he’s featured in NBA 2K.
He has his own Puma sneaker coming out soon, and he is the definition of a social media influencer.
His rise to fame has a humble beginning. He went from being a walk-on at Louisville, to training J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony as an intern with the New York Knicks. The Knicks elevated him to player development coordinator in 2013 and slowly but surely, he began to hone his craft and form relationships with other well-known hoopers.
Brickley, who is 37, didn’t make it to the highest level as a player or coach (he was an assistant at Fairleigh Dickinson University from 2011-13), but he is arguably the most well-known trainer in the United States.
“In college, I played for Rick Pitino and saw the way he taught the game,” Brickley said. “He would make so many basketball references to real life and so many real-life references to basketball. I thought that was so dope. I was like ‘Man, he’s the best teacher I ever had.’ Whether it’s basketball or actual school, he taught me life using the game of basketball. That was dope. At that moment I fell in love with that concept.
Brickley said he tries to teach without lecturing, helping upcoming players learn the lessons that “come with being a young professional.”
“I think it’s a lead-by-example thing,” Brickley said. “[The lessons apply to your] mindset after practice, attitude after bad games, film study, in-season work ethic, and a ton of off-court life decisions.”
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His most legendary workouts happened at the Lifetime Athletic Club in New York, but paparazzi and fans started making that experience less enjoyable for his clients. So now, he does his training at the Summit in New York, which has a bonus – he lives there.
Russell Westbrook, Jimmy Butler, Cole Anthony, LeBron and Love have all been to the Summit in the past week. Does Brickley have a secret potion that corrects flaws?
“There are no magic drills,” Brickley said. “It’s just about communication and building a relationship. For example, I just finished working out [Cleveland Cavaliers guard] Ty Jerome. We are communicating every single day. He’ll be like ‘I don’t like doing catch-and-shoot because I feel like it’s too easy. I get into a rhythm and if we’re shooting 20 from a spot, after 12 makes in a row I lose focus.’
“I go to sleep, wake up and I’m like how about this?” Brickley said. “No more catch and shoot. You shoot it, must take a step sideways and then back to the spot. I do stuff to get him out of rhythm. That’s a tiny example. Nothing I’m doing is that great. I’m building a strong relationship with the players, and they are communicating to me what they think they are good at. They tell me what they think they need to get better at, what their team thinks they need to be good at and I attack it from there.”
Sure, Brickley enjoys working with the big names, but he gets the most satisfaction from getting a kid in the gym in high school and going through the process together.
“The most fun is when you start working out with a kid when they are young. That’s the most fulfilling,” Brickley said. “Being able to work out Cole Anthony when he was first starting out and then watching him get to the league. Working out Donovan (Mitchell) before he ever played a game at Louisville and watching him become Donovan. Those are the super cool stories.”
“Hoodie Melo” was born in one of Brickley’s open runs. Now he is training Anthony’s son, Kiyan. They have been working together since Kiyan was in fifth grade. He is currently a high school junior.
“He keeps getting better and taller every time I see him,” Brickley said. “My love for high school is why I started the Brickley Invitational this past year in Chicago. I had the top players in the country. From Cooper Flagg to Ian Jackson to Elliot Cadeau. It was fun and next year we are going to add the girls.”
Flagg, who dominated camps, showcases and AAU tournaments this past summer, is the consensus No. 1 player in the class of 2024.
“It’s crazy the way NBA players talk about Cooper,” Brickley said. “One of the guys I work with on the court said Cooper gets the most engagement out of any player I posted this summer. Even more than NBA players. People want to see Cooper Flagg. He’s from Maine and I’m from New Hampshire so we are from the same neck of the woods. I have a good relationship with him and his mom. I’m going to see him play a lot and he’s going to come to New York a few weekends. I’m excited for that.”
Brickley’s training philosophy is to be great at what you’re good at and to work on what you’re not good at. Despite his success, he is still a student of the game, watching videos and speaking with players to stay at the top of the training mountain.
“Two years ago, players started telling me that when they work out with me, they think about the super-skilled players who have worked out with me in the past,” Brickley said. “They think about the All-Star type players who have worked out with me. ‘He was passing this guy the ball’ and they gain confidence from that. A sense of confidence is more important than any drill I can do.”