It all started when I was around 11 or 12 years old. I have always been a huge Michael Jordan fan, and like so many other kids I believed that by owning those shoes, I could "be like Mike" and become better at basketball. Many basketball players these days - Lebron James, Kobe Bryant - are popular, but are nowhere near the greatness or influence of MJ.
The shoes also have served as a great conversation piece. They have brought me a lot of attention and popularity with students and others. My life has been about meeting people, and making connections, and the sneakers serve as an ice breaker.
You maintain an official relationship with Air Jordan. How has that worked?
The Air Jordan process started in ’99 – at the time, we were sponsored by brand Jordan. One day the team told us that a brand representative was coming to talk with us, and in through the door walks Gentry Humphrey, who was the director of the brand. Since I was already a big fan, I knew who he was and was really excited to have him here talking to us. Over the next hour or so, he essentially held a focus group with us: what do you like, etc. When we were done, I introduced myself and that began the relationship which led me to the process of being involved with Air Jordan. I went out a few times a year, learned more, became friends, and they knew I was passionate.
One of my favorite shoes is the Jordan Air 5. Now when I wear the Jordan 5’s, I wear them with white laces – something no one else does because they are an all-black shoe. So one of the guys asks me at Air Jordan why I go with the white laces? After some conversation, he followed up with me a few months later with a new prototype based on the white laces and the other style points I told him about, and it just grew from there.
It was a great feeling in October 2010 to actually get the shoe I helped develop. Just like it was a dream for me to run on the court at Midnight Madness, it was a dream realized to hold a shoe I helped create.
So what happened after college basketball?
I remember my final meeting with Coach Huggins, he said, “You’re not going to the NBA – you’re not going overseas to play professionally. You’re going live, work and be a part of this community, you need to know the people who are influential in this city. People will know who you are since you played here, but you need to know who they are – it’s very important to treat people right and leverage your connections." He was right; I’ve met so many great people at the University, and I owe a tremendous amount to those who helped me.
After UC, I coached basketball at Walnut Hills High School for two years – and learned I had a passion for working with young people in basketball and in life. That experience was a springboard to start Shining Star Sports, a non-profit organization that helps build men and women into tomorrow’s leaders through the game of basketball. We put them on teams based on age, send them around the country to play AAU basketball, one-on-one instruction and coaching, and through this process, my staff and I have helped kids in a way that they wouldn’t have received otherwise. We help prepare them for life when the ball stops bouncing. Our ten year anniversary was in April 2011.
In a way, I represent UC and I take pride in that and conduct myself in the proper way.
Do you have any advice to UC alumni and students?
The time you are at UC, be good to the people you meet, and realize there are a lot of people there to help you – such as teachers and administrators. Use them. Make connections. There are so many people who have come out of the University who have done great things in the community – get connected with them. Try an internship or something like that. I interned at 700 WLW and I got to know a lot of media people, and it’s great to leverage those connections. Figure out how to get in the door, but also be ready to make an impact once you’re in – and that’s the education piece of things.
Take advantage of the resources around you. Everything I’ve done in this life goes back to my mother and father putting me in good positions, the great influence from my brother, and of course the opportunities I had at UC. Lean on those people and let them help you.
We thank Alex Meacham for sharing his story!
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