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Across the street and roughly a handful of stories higher than the 10th floor where Jalen Suggs is dribbling and posing for pictures sits a massive, faux-vintage red “Welcome” sign that feels like it’s hovering over him. The backdrop at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge’s rooftop lounge, situated a Suggs’ halfcourt heave away from the world-famous span, couldn’t be more appropriate.
That’s because the sign—not exactly a landmark in the County of Kings but notable enough that you can see it clear across the East River in Manhattan—signifies Suggs’ pending entrance into the NBA. It’s Tuesday afternoon, two days before the NBA Draft goes down at Barclays Center a few neighborhoods to the southeast, and it still hasn’t hit Suggs that his dream is almost a reality.
“It’ll hit me late Wednesday night or Thursday morning when I wake up,” he says. “Right now it all feels so surreal.”
The sign also signifies his entrance into an exclusive basketball family. Which is why the practically guaranteed-to-be top 4 selection in Thursday’s draft is here in the first place, rocking a blue tracksuit on a hot summer day because you gotta look fly for your first photoshoot with the brand.
If you couldn’t tell by the picture above, Suggs is all about that three stripe life these days. Complex Sports is exclusively revealing that the 20-year-old stud, rocking big diamonds in each ear and a pair of silver chains hanging high around his neck, couldn’t be happier to be an Adidas athlete.
“I haven’t been a full-time basketball player yet and that’s scary. I literally put in five months of no basketball every year. I never touched a basketball during [football] season. Now to have it year round like all the rest of the guys, working on my game year round, man, couple that with my work ethic and you talk about ceilings, I don’t know how mine isn’t the highest?” — Jalen Suggs
Along with Evan Mobley out of USC, Jalen Green from the G League Ignite, and Sharife Copper out of Auburn, Suggs rounds out an impressive 2021 draft class for the brand that already features a robust roster of NBA stars like Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, and Trae Young. The ex-Gonzaga guard’s goal is to be as synonymous with the three stripes as the guys he looks up to.
“To be a part of the new generation knowing how great and historic the brand has been is a pleasure,” says Suggs. “I can’t wait to hopefully be one of the big names that future generations, when they see Adidas, [know] I represent.”
Getting to that level will take a lot of work, but give the ultra-athletic Suggs credit for making himself into a potential franchise point guard despite not being able to dedicate himself completely to basketball the way other players in this deep draft did long ago. Remember that Suggs— who was one-and-done at Gonzaga after he led the Bulldogs to the national title game and nailed an incredible buzzer-beater in overtime against UCLA in that national semifinal classic—was a heralded football player in his native Minnesota where he was named the state’s Mr. Football (and Mr. Basketball, too) in 2020. He could be playing major college football somewhere right now if he really wanted to, but basketball’s pull and path to superstardom proved to be too strong.
So when you ask him what his ceiling is in the NBA he’ll tell you why you should consider him the most tantalizing prospect in the draft.
“I haven’t been a full-time basketball player yet and that’s scary,” says Suggs. “I literally put in five months of no basketball every year. I never touched a basketball during [football] season. Now to have it year round like all the rest of the guys, working on my game year round, man, couple that with my work ethic and you talk about ceilings, I don’t know how mine isn’t the highest?”
If Mobley was more of a bragger or boaster he might have something to say about that. But the 20-year-old forward/center, who was dynamite defensively for the Trojans in his only season at USC, is pretty mild-mannered. He’ll let his game do the talking. And with one that many liken to Anthony Davis he could easily end up being the best player this year’s draft.
Where he ends up landing is anyone’s guess. It seems improbable that the spindly Mobley—only the second player in a major conference to win Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season (the other to do it was Davis)—won’t last past the third pick. On the verge of hearing his name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Mobley’s emotions are on a new level.
“Since I got to New York, it’s definitely shifted,” he says over the phone. “It’s a whole different atmosphere here. My excitement is amped up and on 10 right now.”
While big men haven’t always been the most celebrated brand ambassadors—because how many people can relate to somebody Mobley’s size?—if you watched him ball at USC or have done some scouting before the draft then you know why he gets to join legends like Kevin Garnett and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to name a few, as 7-footers repping Adidas. Mobley’s introduction to Adidas came via his AAU squad, the Compton Magic, when he was gifted a pair of sandals as a 12-year-old. He’s grown to become one of the most skilled bigs on both ends of the court the draft has seen in years. Imagine how incredible he will be when he fills out that frame.
“I really don’t see a ceiling for me,” says Mobley. “I just want to keep getting better and better. I feel like my game is definitely catered to the modern-day big.”
Like Suggs, Mobley hadn’t connected with any other Adidas-affiliated NBA players before the news went wide. There will be plenty of time to pick their brains and pocket a few tips about what life’s like as a professional basketball player and what to expect working with the brand. Like Mobley, Suggs is trying his best to enjoy the moments of this unique week while he can. You only get drafted once and the entire process leading up to Thursday has been full of memorable moments.
When he opened the check from his first sponsorship deal, Suggs says he broke down. He had finally made it. The struggle his family had endured, like at one point living in his uncle’s basement, was officially over. He’s incredibly proud of how his family helped and sacrificed so he could be in this position. His mom, dad, sisters, aunt, uncle, and girlfriend will all be with him Thursday.
For a kid who’s been the big man on campus, earmarked for greatness in high school, and done plenty of shoots and had cameras shoved in his face, Suggs is pretty damn humble and good at keeping things in perspective. Sitting on a couch a floor below the rooftop in fresh sneakers and loud shorts from the Eric Emanuel x Adidas collection, a gracious Suggs, smiling even when he talks about tougher topics, is asked to turn the tables. How proud is he of himself?
“I am going to have the best job in the world, getting to play basketball every day. It’s a blessing,” says Suggs. “But I’ve gone about it the right way. I’ve enjoyed my time and I’ve learned. And I’ve put in the work. Now to be able to reap the rewards and have fun with it I’m extremely proud of myself.”