Meet the new platform for basketball highlights that’s nothing but net
When “The Sims” video game was popular in the early 2000s, Jordan Smith-Richard played by the rules. He made his characters go to work every day and built them up to be happy, successful people.
His younger sister, Ashten Smith-Gooden, always put in the cheat codes to give her characters the money they needed to go have fun.
Now, they’re putting their heads together to create Swish Cultures, a rapidly growing platform for basketball highlights from the G League, Euroleague, NBA, WNBA and anywhere else with a rim. They have 260,000 followers and counting on Instagram, with their videos averaging more than 50,000 views.
They also have TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts. Their content has been picked up by NBA teams, Bleacher Report and their most popular video — one of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the Lakers doing football drills — has more than 2.4 million views on YouTube and was featured on ESPN.
Swish Cultures lives up to its name by not just posting highlights, but also showcasing the fashion, music and lingo of basketball. Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy and NBA star Jrue Holiday were early supporters who helped Smith-Richard and the team grow its network and gain confidence.
“It’s crazy because even now, he’s been so consistent with persevering through Swish and like building up and not relying on quick results,” Smith-Gooden said of her brother in a Zoom interview. “In comparison to me when I joined, I was like, OK, I want the satisfaction right away.”
It all started as a daydream that Smith-Richard had in 2017 when he was playing overseas. He envisioned a platform where those who were overlooked could have a chance to shine. Before turning pro, Smith-Richard attended Cal State L.A. and made his own highlight reels because there was no media coverage of the Division II school. He had friends asking him to do the same for them.
“My year I was playing in Finland, I took YouTube University, I call it that, and I was learning how to edit, learning how to pick up a camera,” said Smith-Richard, who along with his sister graduated from Los Osos High in Rancho Cucamonga. “... A lot of my teammates — which, mind you, I had Finnish teammates; there’s only two Americans on my team — they were looking at me crazy because I have my computer open, I was always working on highlights. Honestly, I don’t think people had ever seen someone do that.”
With the game plan set for Swish Cultures, he reached out to Anthony Goods, a fellow pro overseas whom he grew up with in the Inland Empire. Goods, a standout for Corona Centennial High before playing at Stanford, agreed the platform was needed and is currently based in Miami, representing the team on the East Coast.
Smith-Gooden, who was a senior volleyball player at California, also was on board and wanted to follow her older brother — “typical little sister stuff,” she said. She picked up a camera to film her classmates, including future NBA star Jaylen Brown.
The team also added Mide Osifeso, Smith-Richard’s best friend, who is in charge of graphics.
“It’s just crazy how small the athletic space is in general,” Smith-Gooden said. “Because, for example, just me knowing Jaylen from school, just from being an athlete, it’s like you know them from a different side than what you see in the media. Then Jordan being a professional basketball player, he has so many different friends, so many different connections. So they don’t look at us like, which is a blessing, like a media company. They look at us as someone that can tell their story without being judged or everything put out to the forefront.”
Trust is a major element to the success for Swish Cultures. Getting in the gym with elite athletes is one thing, but using discernment to build relationships is another.
“A play will happen and it’s like, ‘Oh wow.’ You know what would happen if you post that, but our trust with them is the most valuable thing,” Smith-Richard said. “... I would rather take an L on something going viral on a post than it affecting our relationship.”
At around 1,000 followers, Swish Cultures got a boost after the official Euroleague Instagram account started following the page. They also got a major co-sign when Handy put his support behind the group. Handy was on staff at Stanford when Goods played there. When Handy was presented with the idea of Swish Cultures, he was all-in.
“They were really just trying to bring exposure to great basketball in Europe,” Handy said in a phone conversation. “As somebody who played in Europe most of my career, I just like that because it showed right then and there that they were about the passion of the sport, not so much just about trying to promote big names or trying to make videos of LeBron every day or whoever the top player may be. They were really intent to bring some knowledge just about deeper levels of basketball and about players that most people just would not know on a daily basis.”
Handy, who has coached on three championship teams with James and went to six consecutive NBA Finals, brought the Swish Cultures team to a workout with NBA veteran Tristan Thompson in the summer of 2018. He also introduced them to trainer Chris Johnson and offered to be a resource because he appreciated the organic nature of their efforts.
“It’s really just about opening up the network and giving them access to everybody that I knew inside the business to help them grow their platform,” Handy said.
Smith-Richard expressed immense gratitude for Handy’s support and said the connections he helped make “changed our whole outlook of our business.”
The Swish Cultures team does more than provide a platform for basketball highlights. It also showcases an entrepreneurial spirit. They were recipients of the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund when the NBA star donated his salary from the NBA bubble to Black-owned businesses. Holiday, who is a family friend, has provided more than just money to the cause and was an early supporter who sat Smith-Richard down and asked him about his goals.
“That still sticks with me to this day because as an NBA player and a person that has a lot of things that he’s doing, you don’t have to do that,” Smith-Richard said.
The current Swish Cultures business model is built off partnerships and monetizing its social media. They are a credentialed member of the media for both the Lakers and Clippers, they sell merchandise and recently did a collaboration with former NBA player Michael Beasley. Their goals include producing long-form documentaries and series they hope to sell to a major distributor.
Smith-Gooden wants to use Swish Cultures to showcase the abilities of women. As a former volleyball player, she relied on her brother to teach her the information needed to run a basketball platform and notices that the posts about women get a lot of criticism. Engagement is key in building success on social media, and one of Swish Cultures’ goals is to rise above internet trolls and create an inclusive community for everyone.
“Even though I may not know all the terminology of basketball, I 1,000% know what it’s like to be a woman and especially a Black woman,” she said.
Swish Cultures ramped up for summer basketball, which is extra busy this year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much activity last year. The team is looking forward to telling stories behind the crossovers and slam dunks.
With the excitement of growing a platform, what remains at the foundation of Swish Cultures is that same hard work and dedication that helped the siblings reach elite levels as athletes.
“I’ve always been a person that believes if you put in the work, things will happen for you,” Handy said. “They’re doing it the right way. They’re not afraid to get in the trenches. I’m just happy for them because, again, they started at ground zero and now they’re one of the most popular basketball pages out there.
“So I think it sends a message to anyone, look, if you want to do things, do it the right way, you have the right intent behind it, your heart and your passion for what you’re doing is there, then you can be really successful.”
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