Ridin’ Dirty

When he’s not tearing up the BMX circuit, Nigel Sylvester pays close attention to his hometown New York Knicks.
by January 15, 2016

If there’s a word that best describes professional BMX rider Nigel Sylvester, it’s this: trailblazer. Much like the virtuosic improvisation of Russell Westbrook taking flight in the lane or Stephen Curry boogying behind the arc about to let one fly from deep, Sylvester’s flow on two wheels is, to quote Kid Cudi, “unfukwittable.” Whether he’s freestyling and popping wheelies through the chaotic streets of his native New York, riding his signature Brooklyn Machine Works bike alongside Pharrell Williams to the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards or serving as brand ambassador to major companies like Nike and Casio, the 28-year-old tastemaker from Jamaica, Queens, is always taking his sport to new heights. SLAM caught up with the viral video star to talk bikes, hoops and, of course, his beloved New York Knicks.

SLAM: At 5-9, 185 pounds, you’re built like more of a traditional athlete. Do you play ball?

Nigel Sylvester: I do. I play ball every once and a while. As a kid I played more. I still go and shoot around. I enjoy the game, but because I’m always on my bike, I don’t play as much anymore.

SLAM: You’re a Knicks fan, right?

NS: For me, I got certain players I follow more than teams, like LeBron James. I’m a big LeBron fan and a Chris Paul [fan]. Those are the top two players that I keep up with. But yeah, I’m always gonna root for the home team no matter how good or bad they’re playing.

SLAM: You must be pretty optimistic about Kristaps Porzingis.

NS: Yes. When everyone was booing him on Draft night, I was the type of dude that wanted to wait and see what he could do first. I think he’s playing really well so far. He has a presence and he’s doing the damn thing, which is awesome. I’m really hoping he can mature and help the Knicks win a Championship. That’s always the goal, to win a chip.

SLAM: What do you think of the job Phil Jackson’s done so far?

NS: We expect more because he has such a résumé and such a past of greatness. He set such a high bar that he has to live up to. I feel like this team is different than any other team that he’s been a part of, but it takes some time. I’m ready for him to make some strides.

SLAM: So have they made enough progress for you to go to a game this year?

NS: I’m not that type of fan to where if they’re not playing well, I don’t want to go to games. I haven’t been to a game this season yet, but I will get some tickets and go. I’m always gonna support the Knicks. I’m a New York City kid, you know?

SLAM: You’ve really carved out your own lane as a BMX pro. As a kid growing up in Laurelton, just riding a bicycle around, did you ever think you’d be where you are now?

NS: No, BMX riding in NYC is super niche. Back then, we didn’t have all the skate parks we have now. In NYC, you have to navigate the streets and paint the city like it’s a canvas and your bike is the paintbrush. I didn’t take the conventional or traditional route to bike riding. I put my content out through the internet and social media and was able to just bubble up to a fanbase that turned from a local buzz to a global platform where people really respect what I do.

SLAM: Looks like that respect has led to some very cool things outside of the sport, too.

NS: It has. But I’m a big fan of dudes like Pharrell, Jay Z and Kanye West because it was about more than just music for them. They do so many different things, and I’m a fan of that. Of course the bike and doing tricks is the core of what I do, but I’m into other things, like fashion, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to do that.