Chad grew up in North New Jersey with his three brothers and his mother. “I grew up right around the corner from New York. I’m basically at home.” Chad told me. Chad has always had a love for the game of basketball. He started as a young kid and played all the way through college. Not sure if he knew how far the game would take him or imagined which direction. Coming from a family of all boys, he felt like that was an advantage, “Having older siblings sorta helps you out in regards to driving yourself.” There’s no question that Chad has used his drive to score major points as a young professional.

Chad and I met up at the Nike Office in NYC. It was late on a Friday afternoon and things were winding down in the office. Chad was a great host. He showed me around the office as we migrated towards a vacant conference room. Chad is a Brand Manager of Basketball in what is known as the “Mecca” of Basketball itself, New York City. Being as young as he is, it’s phenomenal that he oversees such an integral piece to the basketball landscape. One of Chad’s greatest strengths is his ability to build relationships. A pure necessity for a brand manager in the biggest city in the world. As Chad has traveled the world, he’s had a way of naturally ingratiating himself with everyone he meets. Everybody knows Chad! He’s been #TeamNike for over six years and has led several big budget initiatives for Nike Basketball. The sports industry is very competitive, and obtaining a career here is always a challenge. We go inside the mind of a cutting-edge sports professional in this week’s #ShineHard conversation.


What is your Passion and when did you know?

Chad: Well first and foremost, I think passions change for a number of reasons, and at any given time depending on where you’re at in your life. Right now, one of my biggest passions is basketball. I knew that I was passionate about basketball maybe when I was in middle school and I just loved it. It was fun, it was a release, it was exciting. And then my other passion would be giving back. Ya know, truth be told man for me, I knew that I was passionate about giving back when I graduated from Hampton and got into the real world. I realized how many of us do not exist in this corporate environment.

What was life like for you growing up?

Chad: I feel like I sorta had an advantage growing up. Having older siblings sorta helps you out in regards to driving yourself. I call myself the “outsider” of the family because everyone else is in the sciences. One of my brothers is a lab tech working on stem cell research and my other brother is a doctor. I’m not doing anything in that realm, but being in a household where everybody is doing SOME-thing, you don’t wanna be the person who’s not.

Who did you look up to as a kid?

Chad: That’s an easy one. It was my mom and my brothers. Mainly because that’s who I was with all the time. Most dudes look up to dudes who they think are cool anyway, and I just happened to have brothers. So that worked out for me. I thought they were so cool. They pretty much paved the way for me and I got to learn so much through their experiences. Then my mom just because it starts somewhere, and fortunately for me it started in a house where my mom played an intricate part in my growth and development.

How do you feel about mentors? Do you have any?

Chad: I would change the word “mentor” to adviser. There are people who have been in my life for a long period of time who still advise me, mentor me, and help me out. Then there are people who I just meet who do that as well. I think at the end of the day, whether you realize it or not, there are people who are in your life for a specific reason. Sometimes that reason is to help you get to where you’re trying to go and it’s on the individual to really be open to the idea of letting somebody help them.

So tell me more about your role and what you do here at Nike..?

Chad: My role right now is Brand Manager of Basketball for New York and the east territory. Brand marketing is the space that connects the consumer and the brand. We handle from Maine down to Miami, and we pretty much handle all the activations, strategic planning and framework for basketball as it relates to NBA, College, grass roots, high school, summer league.

Johnny: It’s said the best part about working for Nike is the access…

What do you think is the coolest thing about working for Nike?

Chad: For me personally, the coolest thing about working for Nike has to be the culture of it all. It’s the ability to make things up out of thin air, the ability to use your imagination and come up with ideas. Having the freedom to dress comfortably. It’s such a laid back relaxed environment and everything is built around story telling. All these amazing sports stories. I just love being around the culture of sport and for me that makes everything fun. 

What has been your biggest challenge in your career thus far and what have you learned from it?

Chad: The biggest challenge for me would have to be just conducting myself in a business manner. That’s something, depending on your background, that might be something that’s a little foreign to you. You’re not really able to develop some of those skills. I started Nike when I was 21. To be 21 sitting in meetings with individuals in their late 20’s or 30’s talking about business was a big adjustment for me. Learning how to interact with business folk, network, and position myself to where I’m coming across correctly. That’s one of the biggest things. That and my personal persona of being “nonchalant.”

You’ve traveled and met a ton of people over the years, tell me about an experience that really inspired you?

Chad: Just recently I took a vacation with my brother to South America. We went to Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. It was an amazing experience. It sticks out in my mind because it took us out of our comfort zone. Going into Peru we hiked up Machu Picchu which in itself is an amazing experience, it’s just breath taking. We got to Machu Picchu city and we hiked up the mountain. The mental aspect of it all; wearing you down plus the physical aspect. Then traveling, we traveled via bus the entire time. Cooped up on these hot buses for 12 hours overnight. That had to be one of the best trips I ever had because it was such a revealing experience on what I was able to do. Just an amazing experience.

What frustrates you most about today’s culture?

Chad: What frustrates me the most is that everybody just wants the easy road. Nobody wants to put in the amount of time and effort that goes into things to be successful. It’s just the most frustrating thing because you try to tell somebody what it takes to get here. They hear it but they don’t apply it. The catch with the whole “what it takes to get here” is the road that we travel on varies depending on the person. You understand that there are going to be some challenges and bumps along the way, it doesn’t mean you deviate from whatever course you’re on. A lot of times people look for the easy button.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Chad: First thing I’m most proud of is even being at Nike. Being at Nike as long as I’ve been here, a little over six years, for me that’s an amazing feat. There are a number of projects that I’m most proud of. Two that really come to mind. First one is the grassroots activations for Basketball Never Stops. A campaign that me and my boy Jeron did when the NBA was locked out. The other is an event called “City Tournament Champions” where we pull teams from different cities to play against each other. DC, NY, PHILLY, LA, CHICAGO. It was one of those things that was a lot of work at the time, but to actually experience the energy there and having led that project is just an amazing feeling to be in that moment.

11: What is the #1 factor behind your success?

Chad: My ability to adapt and be open to things. As long as I’m open to an opportunity or idea and I’m able to adapt to it, I feel like, “I’ll be OK. I’ll make it work.” Not being open to an opportunity, as I think about my entire journey, I wouldn’t be here. You just have to be open-minded. If you’re not open to the opportunity you’ll never know where it’s going to get you.

What advice do you have for people aspiring to get into the sports industry?

Chad: One, “Be confident.” Be confident in yourself, in your actions, and in what you’re bringing to the table. The second one is “Be yourself.” A lot of times, people conform to how others want them to be, or want them to fit. It’s OK if you don’t “fit in.” Lastly, live your life and enjoy it. Life is about lessons. That’s what teaches you different things.

Johnny: So true. Talent isn’t about fitting in, it’s all about standing out. Chad, you’re making great strides as a young professional. Continue to lead the way and keep shining bro! Welcome to the @ShineHardFamily.

Interested in learning more or connecting with Chad?

Twitter/IG: @Jus_Chad

Email: chad.easterling@nike.com