Along with the big NBA names that are about to make their way to NYC for All-Star Weekend, the big brands are coming too. For Justin Leonard—a New Jerseyan who played ball in NYC all his life and whose professional world revolves around basketball in New York—the big brands’ insight to New York basketball over the quick All-Star Weekend will provide only an outsider’s glimpse to a history that deserves much more esteem.
To balance out the narrative, Leonard curated RAISED: AN NYC Basketball Exhibition, which will feature work by artists like Bobbito Garcia, Kevin Couliau, Adam Lister, Jon Lopez, NY Sunshine, and Leonard himself.
“I wanted to capitalize on this moment of All-Star and the energy around the game, and bring a property to the consumer that’s really authentic to New York and to our basketball community,” he says.
Peep a preview of the artists’ works in the gallery above, and continue below for SLAM’s conversation with Leonard about tomorrow’s exhibition.
SLAM: Can you let us know a little bit about your background as the curator of this gallery and some background on the New York Basketball Club as well?
Justin Leonard: I own and run my own marketing company called Game Seven Marketing that specializes in sport and sport culture. What we do is craft and innovate authentic marketing strategies on behalf of our clients and then we produce the events as well.
New York Basketball Club is a new entity that I just launched last month. It’s something I wanted to do for a while, and really what it is, is a collective of people that make up the community of New York City basketball. Our goal is very simple: it’s to celebrate the game of basketball and to celebrate the city of New York City.
SLAM: Is this the first event for the club?
JL: Yes, this is the first event that anybody can come see. It’s a little bit unique. The New York City Basketball Club was founded out of the need that I felt, the need for really organized New York City basketball. We have such an amazing city, it’s been unbelievably important to the culture of basketball globally.
I think it’s been a problem for a long time, but it’s really been brought to the forefront over the last year or two…the larger media narrative that New York City basketball is dead. I couldn’t disagree with that more. It’s changed a lot, but I still think we are a leader when it comes to basketball and basketball culture around the world. What we really lack is organization and leadership that’s been able to make sure our City is moving as a collective in a positive direction. That is the overall goal of the New York Basketball Club. That is going to be done in a variety of different ways. As you can see with the show, this one is a lot more focused on the arts and the culture of the game. But we will be focusing on performance as well as a bunch of other big media projects that will launch over the year.
SLAM: What specifically made you want to put the show on now? I know it’s an outdoor thing, and it’s pretty cold in the City these days.
JL: The show itself is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I haven’t acted on it until now. Obviously with All-Star coming to New York City, I thought no better time than to launch this thing and then put it on one of the world’s largest stages.
The idea of doing the gallery…I always wanted it to live outdoors. I wanted it to live naturally with the concepts of the game, not something to put inside a traditional gallery. If you know The Cage, it’s one of the most famed basketball locations in New York, and I thought it’d be cool to do it outdoors.
SLAM: That’s definitely cool. What are the logistics of it? How exactly is it going to be set up?
JL: Wednesday night is the opening reception. That’ll be invite-only, people need to RSVP to that, that’ll be when we launch the show. All the artists will be there. That’ll be the kickoff to the gallery. Thursday, will be open to the public. Anybody and everybody is free to come down and check it out. All the artwork will be for sale.
SLAM: Can you tell me a little bit about what kind of artwork will be there or how you chose the work?
JL: All of the artists that I chose are people whose work I’ve respected for a while. It’s all either artists that are from New York or draw their inspiration from New York City basketball. That was really how I landed on the artists. And the work itself is all over the board, from photography to fine arts to installations. It’ll be a nice eclectic mix of work.
RAISED will be open tomorrow, February 12 from 11 AM to 7 PM at The Cage in New York City for the public to experience and purchase the artwork, as well as interact with some of the artists. Visit the New York Basketball Club’s website for more details.