Meet the Designer Putting Nostalgic NBA Moments on T-Shirts
Full Court Press collides the love for basketball & streetwear. Meet Kumasi Sadiki, man behind the brand's nostalgic T-shirts.
Image via Complex Original
Growing up in Portland, Kumasi Sadiki has always been a fan of basketball. He recalls rooting for the championship contending Portland Trail Blazers squads of the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and cheering on guys like Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, and a “washed up” Scottie Pippen. As a self-proclaimed pothead, he also mentions his fondness for the cheeky double entendre of the Blazers nickname. He grew up playing the game too, ultimately stopping after high school. While his focus gradually shifted to streetwear, his appreciation for the game never wavered. Years later, Sadiki’s loves for the sport of basketball and world of fashion have collided with Full Court Press, a passion project that kicked off in 2016 and is slowly growing into a full fledged brand.
“I'm a big fan of basketball, definitely. But it's kind of multi faceted,” Sadiki, who also co-founded streetwear brand The Good Company, tells Complex. “I like the idea of sports being a way out, but then also art being a way out and exposing kids to other things by engaging them through the medium of basketball. Everybody can relate to it in a certain way, and I like being able to tell a variety of stories through that medium.”
The product spans across multiple eras, but mainly focuses on NBA in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Plenty of brands have referenced the NBA in the past, but Full Court Press is a little different, focusing on more niche references that you don’t see everyday. For example, he featured Andrew Barnes’ painting of Allen Iverson (Sadiki’s favorite player) getting his hair braided on the bench by his mother on T-shirts, he printed the back cover art of Shaquille O’ Neal’s platinum-selling 1996 album You Can’t Stop the Reign on a white long sleeve T-shirt, and printed a flyer for the infamous Rucker Park game between Fat Joe and Jay-Z’s teams that never materialized back in 2003 on T-shirts for his latest release.
Sadiki says the graphics, which are largely black and white, are meant to be an ode to that random vintage T-shirt someone might stumble upon at a thrift store. Non-basketball references to the era also find their way into certain drops. Think a photo of Mike Tyson or a tribute to Nate Dogg. Classic staples like logo T-shirts and hoodies are available as well.
“I look at some of the subtle nuances that make basketball cool as if I didn't even play, like the Shaq album. He went platinum. He had a Notorious B.I.G. feature on there. Little stuff like that is kind of crazy,” says Sadiki. “It’s a little bit nostalgic. Some stuff is from my childhood that I just remembered, and then a little bit is just these moments that kind of humanize the game.”
The line currently provides products on an irregular schedule with drops consisting of a handful of new graphic T-shirts and hoodies every few months. He’s received love from New York's underground rap community with artists like MIKE and Navy Blue (Sage Elesser) repping the brand frequently. Names like Earl Sweatshirt and Playboi Carti have also worn Full Court Press. Sadiki says he was initially able to fuel the demand locally in New York City through Instagram DMs and face-to-face meetups. But with the brand gaining traction, and ongoing pandemic requieing social distancing, he had to open up an official online store for his most recent release this past June.
As the name suggests, Full Court Press also creates themed zines to coincide with certain releases that have covered topics like NBA players tattoos in the past. Eventually, Sadiki hopes to transition into books, but clothes will always be the focus. And there are still plenty of things he wants to reference.
“There's a lot of moments I haven't even touched on yet. There's just so much stuff to look at so I'm just trying to just dig deeper,” Sadiki tells Complex. “I think of myself almost like a producer or a DJ so I just like digging through the crates and trying to just find cool samples or good references or watch something that inspires something.”
Full Court Press is far from Sadiki’s first foray in streetwear. His first major brand, FreedMinds, started when he moved to San Francisco following a brief stint in Philadelphia after he graduated high school. It focused heavily on Black culture, something he credits as a reflection of his father being very pro-Black throughout his childhood. His next venture would be The Good Company, which he co-founded with Quinn Arneson in 2012—the store still operates at 97 Allen Street in New York City’s Lower East Side. A self-proclaimed workaholic, Sadiki finds a way to balance both of his current ventures.
“Good Company takes up most of my time. No one was really expecting or waiting on Full Court before. But going forward, I don't know if it'll be on a schedule like that, but I want to just have more consistent releases,” says Sadiki.
He admits not initially taking Full Court Press very seriously. It was just a project for him to get out more of his ideas.
“It was just a way for me to put out different stories that I thought were cool. I didn't think that anyone would even give a fuck,” says Sadiki. “I probably would make like one or two collections a year and not really even promote it. I would only put it on Instagram, no website, so you'd have to like hit me up or if you knew me you could get it, but I wasn't really even trying to sell it.”
The brand is still pretty hard to come by. Along with an e-commerce site and the Good Company store, Full Court Press is only stocked at two other locations in North America right now, Lower East Coast in Miami and Toronto’s Better Gift Shop. While Sadiki wants to expand, he wants to make sure the moves he makes are the right ones. Given the current landscape from the ongoing pandemic, he also acknowledges the power of a direct-to-consumer business model.
For the time being, Full Court Press remains a fairly small operation, but Kumasi hopes to grow its presence in the future. He hints at accessories like chess boards and home goods, and says he would love to eventually bring the basketball theme full circle by designing his own sneaker with Jordan Brand or working with Mitchell & Ness when the time is right. Of course, expect the ‘90s and 2000s graphics to also continue. NBA legends like Ray Allen or Hakeem Olajuwon are mentioned as potential inspirations in the future. He’s still an avid watcher of the NBA to this day. He says eventually he might dabble in references to current superstars citing Memphis Grizzlies rookie point guard Ja Morant as someone he is particularly a fan of.
"I think that style is super important for basketball. I like to see the evolution,” says Sadiki. “Of course I definitely want to get some NBA players to wear the stuff, that would be sick. I feel like for me that's probably one of the many things that I would like to see from the brand for sure.”
While Sadiki has plenty of goals, he looks at it as a marathon, not a sprint.
“I think taking your time with your growth is important. That's why I was never really in a rush to grow the brand. I appreciate the natural progression that it's taken. I hope that people can feel that authenticity.”