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Cole Anthony & Crystal McCrary McGuire
Want to Make Your Kid an NBA Player

Published: 09/12/23
By Michelai Graham

Orlando Magic point guard Cole Anthony and his mother, Crystal McCrary McGuire, are scaling the youth basketball ecosystem through an app. Here’s what they hope GameUp can bring to the industry.

There is no easy path to success in sports, but Orlando Magic point guard Cole Anthony and his mother, Crystal McCrary McGuire, are looking to ease the burden. The pair have created a mobile app to help clear the way for youth basketball players with plans to expand to other sports soon.

“The ultimate goal of GameUp, beyond matching kids and parents with teams, is to be the youth basketball destination for all things basketball,” McCrary McGuire told Boardroom. “We’re looking at GameUp to be the spot for parents to come to get everything they need on the basketball front.” 

Anthony’s own winding road toward becoming a first-round NBA Draft pick in 2020 was the main inspiration behind developing GameUp, the parent resource app designed to transform youth basketball development. McCrary McGuire — a New York Times Best-Selling author and filmmaker known for her work in media and Nickelodeon’s docuseries Little Ballers — was the perfect person to build the app alongside Anthony since she had to navigate the youth sports landscape from the parent’s perspective.

Prior to GameUp’s Sept. 10 launch, Boardroom sat down with the mother-son duo to discuss building a business, how Anthony’s experience shaped GameUp’s mission, their thoughts on working together, an unlikely transition into tech entrepreneurship, and more.

Their Matchup 

McCrary McGuire knows that navigating the youth basketball ecosystem in the tri-state area is not easy. She learned early on that it is complex, and programs are warped with disorganization and unreliability. 

She saw the need for parents to have more resources in one place. In 2022, parents spent over $30 billion alone on youth sports and extracurricular activities in the US. GameUp’s platform aims to give them a full picture of what their child needs, identify the best teams for them to play on, and provide ways to maximize the return for the expenses they dish out. The app is not meant to solve every pain point in the youth sports ecosystem, but to smooth the process. 

McCrary McGuire started her entrepreneurial career after leaving her law firm to write books and create TV shows. She’s been a basketball mom to her three kids throughout her career, putting them through various basketball programs and teams at all levels. Through her experience, McCrary McGuire said she became that mom that all other parents and families came to for advice on which programs and teams to invest in. McCrary McGuire eventually decided it was time to aggregate this information and put it into an app. 

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“I love collaborating. So many of my businesses have been collaboration,” she said. “It’s so gratifying to actually be able to have an endeavor with my son.”

Just as Anthony leans on McCrary McGuire for her experience as a parent, she relies on him to bring the player’s perspective. Anthony said working with his mother and learning the tech space together has been great. 

“She’s extremely smart, one of my best friends, and just has a phenomenal mind,” Anthony said about his mother. “On this entrepreneurial side, she just thinks about stuff that I wouldn’t even think about. [I’m] just super glad to be working with her on this side of things and enjoying the process.”

McCrary McGuire and Anthony financially seeded GameUp themselves and were involved in the design process every step of the way. Anthony said basketball is his top priority, and with the next NBA season around the corner, he knows GameUp is in good hands as his mom runs the show while he’s on the court. 

“I’m from Detroit, so I’ve had a whole different hustling experience than he has in this entrepreneurial space,” McCrary McGuire said.

Anthony considers himself more laidback and cool, while his mom can sometimes be the opposite. Suffice it to say they balance each other.

“I tell her when she’s bugging [and] she tells me when I’m bugging,” Anthony jokingly said. “I think it’s a lot more fun working with people you like. I like her. So we can get some work done [and] I’m cool with that.”

Anthony said he’s been itching to get back in touch with the youth basketball world since he moved on from it, so between building GameUp and watching his little brothers play in different leagues, he’s locked in on it for years to come.

GameUp’s Mission and Future 

GameUp is on a mission to reshape how families navigate the youth sports world. Technology is already evolving the sports industry, and with GameUp, Anthony and McCrary McGuire hope to stay ahead of the curve and bring tech more into the fold. 

Some of GameUp’s core features include team and personalized matching processes, a database of developmental programs and trainers, a concierge service that guides users through the platform, and more. The platform leverages artificial intelligence tech in its matching process and aggregates a full listing of youth programs and teams across the New York area from crowdsourcing information. Anthony and McCrary McGuire hired developers to build a one-stop-shop solution, which McCrary McGuire stamps as their commitment to empowering the next generation of athletes, starting with basketball. 

GameUp officially launched in the tri-state area Sunday with an event in Harlem called City Assist that celebrates youth basketball. Empire Invitational, GameUp, and Anthony’s 50 Ways Foundation hosted City Assist to bring together young ballers and their families, basketball enthusiasts, emerging talent, and other community members for a day of skills clinics, games, basketball program introductions, and information surrounding scholarship opportunities. 

Now that GameUp is live, McCrary McGuire and Anthony are focused on bringing parents and youth athletes onto the platform. The app’s first regional expansion is coming in the first quarter of 2024. Users can also expect to see baseball, football, and other sports on GameUp in the near future.

“There is never a shortage of parent resources in the youth sports space, which is a continually growing business in the United States of America,” McCrary McGuire said. “We see this as a market and a niche. There’s nothing like this in the marketplace that actually helps parents get matched with teams for their kids. We see this as the perfect model to expand to other parents that need it worldwide.”

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