Nike has partnered with New Orleans artist Brandan “Bmike” Odums to bring its recently launched campaign EQUALITY to life by transforming the artist’s studio into Studio Be for EQUALITY, an interactive basketball-themed space with a focus on community and bringing people together.
Artwork throughout the space was created by Bmike and highlights local community influencers and organizations. If we can be equals in sport, we can be equals everywhere.
Bmike is a visual artist and filmmaker who uses these chosen mediums to tell stories and make statements that transform the minds of viewers as well as the spaces in which his work appears. Athletes who have made appearances include Anthony Davis, DeMar Derozan, Karl-Anthony Towns, LeBron James, Paul George and Kevin Durant to name a few, along with comedian Dave Chappelle. .
The space was open to fans throughout the weekend's All-Star festivities.
This city has a lot of history with the NBA and plenty of synergy with the game of basketball. In the summer of 1974, the New Orleans Jazz joined the NBA as an expansion franchise, and no other team's name symbolized the magnificent beauty of the game more than theirs, for the sport rises above athletics and into the realm of art due to the component of collective improvisation. In music, the best artists achieve this with their various instruments. On the court, players like Kyrie, KD, Chris Paul and LeBron do it with the ball, feeling the game rather than following some rigid formula.
The exceptional Director and Screenwriter Ava DuVernay, Director/Screenwriter, known for her powerful and thought provoking work which includes Selma, 13th, and Queen Sugar which features B Mike, and Studio Be once said of the space, “I felt that this, these installations, this work, this space, this art, communicated legacy to me, communicated memory to me, memory became tangible, and tactile and textured as I walked through. I felt very connected to the past and the future as I walked through the space. It was very awe inspiring but also very nourishing. That’s the word that comes to mind; I feel well fed."
The NBA and Nike felt that same energy, and there is no greater time than right now to see the link between the actual sports' past, present and future.
Basketball has always been fertile ground for taking a stand. From Bill Russell to Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, from the league's role in pressuring Arizona to honor the Martin Luther King holiday to their insistence that the Clippers' racist owner Donald Sterling be jettisoned, the NBA has long been a place where social activism has had a place.
We can look back to the 1964 All-Star Game in Boston garden, the league's first to ever be televised, and the players like Russell, Oscar Robertson, Sam Jones, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor among others, who refused to walk out of their locker rooms and play unless the owners agreed to recognize the players' union. The owners were forced to acquiesce rather than face the national embarrassment of the players walking out on their marquee mid-season event in front of a packed house and livid a television network. This directly led to the many rights and freedoms that today's players take for granted.
Today, we not only see players, but some owners and even the NBA Commissioner speaking up against intolerance, using their elevated place in the culture to bring about much needed change. And this space, Studio Be, reflects that.
With so much negativity and divisiveness fracturing our country, it's great to see Nike, the NBA, the players, artists and the great city of New Orleans coming together to bring people together, while sharing the powerful and elevating message that equality is not some optional concept, it's a concrete necessity.