On June 23, it was officially announced that NYC streetball legend and Australasian NBL player Corey “Homicide” Williams inked a contract with basketball brand Above the Rim (ATR). Williams joins the NBA’s Martell Webster and Will Bynum in endorsing ATR footwear and apparel and will also serve the company as a brand ambassador. Corey took some time to talk to CounterKicks about his path to prominence, the nuances of his game and his partnership with ATR.
CounterKicks: When did you first hear about Above The Rim and what made the brand stand out in your mind?
Corey “Homicide” Williams: The first time I heard about ATR was when they were a part of Reebok. Everybody knew about ATR, man. You know, streetball was huge, they were huge in street basketball and a lot of guys endorsed it and said that it was a good product. They loved this brand because it embodied playground basketball to the fullest. Years later, Above the Rim came out on its own, and, to be a part of that, it’s just amazing for me. I heard about it once I heard Martell Webster signed with the company, and with my experience with smaller brands like K1x, I know that they’ll never be a Nike or an adidas and that’s fine. But you can still compete with other brands, the mid-major brands, and that’s our goal: to be the best individual brand we can be.
CK: How did you develop a relationship with the folks there and what inspired you to sign on with the Above The Rim team?
Homicide: I just loved the whole “Rise” story about this whole brand. The biggest key for them is: just rise. And that epitomizes my career. I came from nowhere. Through a lot of hard work, dedication and belief, I was able to rise from out of nowhere and have a career of my own. New York City epitomizes a lot of these stories. I’m an underdog and to come from nowhere and make it, my success says a lot. It aligned perfectly with this brand.
CK: How do your game and personality fit with the talent they’ve already assembled?
Homicide: The thing is, when you think NYC playground basketball, right now, you think of “Homicide.” There’s definitely a couple other players but you think of Corey “Homicide” Williams and I think they wanted that authenticity and toughness of New York City and what better player to grab than myself in NYC? I think we aligned and the energy connected, our paths crossed and we were able to make it happen. That’s what I think I can bring.
In the summertime, there is no NBA. So, to be able to have a player from NYC to represent them as far as grassroots is concerned, I feel obligated to do that. That’s my part with this sneaker company. To represent them in the summertime and I will do that. What I can do for this company is give them a lot of light in the summertime.
CK: As a player who made a name on the playground of NYC, what does it mean to you to see your talent recognized by the commercial industry?
Homicide: This is my third shoe deal in five years. I was with K1X and I was with Brand Jordan last year, and for me now to be with Above the Rim, I mean, I thank God that’s truly a blessing and a feat for a player who’s not in the NBA. I’m just extremely excited and proud to be a part of this brand. I’m happy to be joining this brand from the ground up. I’m extremely passionate and I agree with their philosophy and the “rise” story. That’s what I’m trying to do, and that’s why it’s a match made in heaven if you ask me.
CK: Above The Rim has a reputation as a “player’s brand” that incorporates that styles, skills and opinions of its athletes into its products. How do you personally plan to influence ATR?
Homicide: Just being myself. That’s Corey Williams, that’s “Homicide” just being himself. That’s what makes me who I am. I play with passion and pride every time I step on the court. That’s how I’m going to represent this brand to my utmost ability just by going out and doing what I do during the summer. Coming through, if I score my 30, my 40 points, sometimes if I’m rolling maybe 50, you know, with those big matchups, when the NBA players come out and play in the park, that’s when the brand gets the maximum exposure. Because everybody is coming out to see those types of matchups and that’s when legends are made, and that’s when stories grow legs of their own. So, you know, to be a part of that with ATR on my feet that is gonna be a beautiful thing because it’s going down this summer.
CK: You returned to NYC as a talented but unproven young player. What steps did you take to build a reputation in a city famed for its competitive street ball?
Homicide: What I did was, I went to every major park in New York City and played against every top player that day and had to destroy them. I didn’t just have to bust their ass, I had to destroy them, meaning, at the end of that day, there’s no way you could look me in my eye. That was the mission I was on. It took years to do — you couldn’t just do that in one summer. You go to every major tournament and try to get a spot on the team. I don’t have to bust all 12 players on they ass, I just have to go at the best player because everybody else is gonna’ fall in line. That’s what I was on. I had a hit list. I put every top name and player on this list. I had to cross them out and that’s how I began this reputation. I was taking every moving target out. And that’s how the legend of “Homicide” began, so to speak. I carry that like a badge of honor because it is.
Out in these streets, it’s not easy. You know, I’m not just a streetball player. I’ve been playing overseas for years. I played in Australia for four years straight. I just finished up this year with the Melbourne Tigers. I’m not just a streetball player but that’s where it began. That’s what I’m gonna do for ATR, do what I do, and that’s to go out and destroy New York City.
CK: Above The Rim promotes basketball as a way to keep kids in urban settings away from negative distractions. How did the game of basketball serve you as a young man growing up in the Bronx?
Homicide: Let me tell you this. Every city, there’s good people and there’s bad people, there’s good places and there’s bad places. In every city, there’s a ghetto. Not everybody in the ghetto is bad. Sometimes you gotta do something bad to survive. The thing for me is, I had basketball and I had good people around me. There are people that do bad things, but they might feel that’s the route they have to take in order to survive. I’m not saying it’s right and I’m not justifying it. But, that’s what they did. Basketball kept me out of harms way.
When you’re a kid and you’re playing sports, people won’t bother you too much. Because they know you’re not into trouble or anything like that. That’s how basketball saved me and plenty of others. What I like to do when I come home, back to the city, is go talk to kids. Not in a specific setting, like an organization that mentors kids. If I see kids in the corner, just in the park, messin’ up and doing some nonsense that I know they shouldn’t do, I pull them aside and talk to them in a group. Because they need to know, this is a kid who grew up right where they live now and he made it. To hear it from me, it means so much more than hearing from their parents because they hear it every day from their parents so they kind of tune it out. I’m 3-D, I’m right there.
A lot of great players, they don’t come back to the hood, or maybe they don’t have an opportunity to come back as much as they would want to because of commitments or because their season is crazy and they’re all over the place. But I’m right here and I’m living proof and they can reach right out and touch me. I take pride in doing that. I take pride in playing some great basketball on the playgrounds, but I also take pride in talking to the young fellas man, because it’s very important and they are our future.
CK: Any advice for young ballers on the streets trying to make a name for themselves?
Homicide: I would tell them, man, to just keep believing in yourself and to work really hard. I know it’s cliché and that everyone says the same damn thing but it’s the truth. The fact of the matter is, it’s the truth. You gotta work your ass off if you really want it. No one is giving you anything. That’s just the bottom line. Stay positive, continue to believe in yourself, work on your craft, work on your game and strengthen your weaknesses. And just continue to give it all you got. And stay your ass in school and graduate. Because this basketball thing, this is not a guarantee.
CK: Where do you see Above The Rim headed during your time there?
Homicide: We just did a two-day ad campaign in Chicago with Will and Martell and I think there’s a lot of good energy man. These are really good guys. One thing I can say is, regardless of all the money and the NBA lifestyle, the NBA hasn’t tainted those guys, hasn’t jaded them in any shape or form. I definitely appreciate working with them. Those are some really good guys, and to have guys like them and myself on the roster, we’re definitely going in the right direction, because we all have the same goals. And that’s to push this brand in the right direction and to help kids and to represent this brand on and off the court as professionals. I think ATR has a bright future and the best is yet to come.
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