Bryce Griggs, Jalen Lewis, Jai Smith, Jahzare Jackson, and Ausar and Amen Thompson will launch their direct-to-consumer brands through Shopify’s creator program.
Growing up in Missouri City, Texas, just outside of Houston, Bryce Griggs and his brothers could usually be found playing basketball against each other. As the frequent victor, oldest brother DJ was the self-proclaimed Big Wolf.
Win or lose, however, Bryce would respond by dubbing himself the Rare Wolf.
Why? “I was going to be the best” out of his family’s wolfpack,” he said.
The moniker stuck with Griggs as he progressed through his career and now it serves as the inspiration behind his direct-to-consumer apparel brand, Rare Wolf, which launches on Shopify Thursday.
“Having this opportunity now is very big, so I told my family I’m going to take advantage of it and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Griggs says. “This is huge for me.”
Griggs, 18, is one of six Overtime Elite (OTE) players who will create and launch their respective brands with the support of the innovative basketball program that offers 16- to 18-year-old players six-figure salaries, equity in the company, and the ability to profit off their name, image, and likeness (NIL) while creating an alternative pathway to the professional ranks.
Jalen Lewis, Jai Smith, Jahzare Jackson, and Ausar and Amen Thompson will also be debuting their respective brands through Shopify’s creator program, which Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler utilized to launch his BIGFACE Coffee brand on an official basis in October 2021.
“We set out to build a different league and a different way of building basketball which was centered around empowering athletes and giving them an accelerated and alternate path to becoming professionals in every sense of the word,” says Tyler Rutstein, VP, General Merchandise Manager at Overtime/OTE. “We equip them with all of the tools, education, and essential training to learn the creative process, build their own IP and really give them a head start as if they were to have this conversation a few years from now with a big brand like Nike, Adidas or Puma to launch their own signature shoe or logo, or their own brand.”
Not only are the athletes supported by OTE and Shopify, but they worked with renowned fashion designer Gemo Wong throughout the entire process.
Wong, who previously worked at Nike and Jordan Brand, has created and designed brands, apparel, and footwear for some of the biggest names in sports, fashion, music, and entertainment, from Carmelo Anthony to Russell Westbrook to Travis Scott.
“I absolutely love the vision behind this project,” Wong says. “I love that brands like Shopify and Overtime are giving young athletes the opportunity to build their own brands. These athletes are deserving of this project as they are just as talented off the court as they are on it. Joining this project as Creative Director, a huge component of my work is simply about enhancing these athletes’ creative spirit.
“The creativity is inside these individuals, and there is nothing more rewarding than helping to unlock that creative spirit. That’s how I see my role in this project: to mentor and to guide creativity.”
For Griggs, not only is this an opportunity to officially begin building his brand, but to hopefully follow in the footsteps of his idol and mentor, James Harden. Harden, who starred for Griggs’ beloved Houston Rockets from 2012-21, has helped to demonstrate for the phenom not only how to succeed on the court, but also the importance of how to conduct himself off it, whether it’s in business or on social media.
“I’m a kid from Houston, so having a chance to be with a megastar and see how his day is and working out with him is very cool,” says Griggs, a 4-star recruit and No. 43 overall player in the 2022 class per 247Sports’ Composite rankings. “I learned a lot from him.”
Griggs’ Rare Wolf debut collection features hoodies, a crewneck sweater, t-shirts, and joggers. The Thompson twins will launch their DTC brand on June 24, the day after the 2022 NBA Draft.
As it does so well, Overtime Elite (and Overtime) will be sharing content around the player brand launches, highlighting the “making of” while telling stories behind the names, designs, and inspiration of each.
For OTE and Shopify, their partnership signifies a new age of entrepreneurship that empowers young individuals to build, create and launch their own brands they can monetize while owning every step of the process from ideation and creation to selling products on their own website.
“It’s inspiring to see these athletes build their own brands both on and off the court,” says Kyle Riggle, Business Planning Director, Creator Program at Shopify. “Learning at an early age how to be in control of your business is absolutely essential and helping these athletes get off the ground with their brands brings them one step closer to diversifying how to monetize and connect with their fans for the long-term.”