Ryan Wright is an international basketball player from Canada. He was born and raised in Toronto, with his extended family spread out over Canada, the UK and parts of the Caribbean. Growing up Wright was a huge fan of basketball legend Michael Jordan, and had a passion for playing basketball from the age of 12. In high school, he kept developing his game, leading him to a chance to play in the NCAA, one of the most-watched sports leagues at the college level. He earned a scholarship which helped him to start his basketball career at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), one of the most prestigious schools when it comes to academics and basketball training. Wright was able to participate in two Final Four championships, playing alongside current OKC Thunder point guard Russel Westbrook. In his third year of college basketball Wright transferred to the University of Okalama (OU), with his performance pushing the team to make an NCAA elite appearance while playing alongside current Detroit Piston’s power forward Blake Griffin.
After achieving a successful career in college basketball and graduating from OU in 2010, Wright entered the NBA draft and was invited by several teams to train – Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and the San Antonio Spurs. In addition, Wright was selected to join a mini-camp for Toronto Raptors. Later in the summer he was on the Canadian national team playing friendly games in Europe in preparation for world championship qualifiers, with the year culminating in Wright signing his first professional contract with a Turkish team. Being signed to leagues overseas gives Wright the opportunity to travel in his career, “[playing] in several of the top-level leagues in both Europe and Asia; [I’ve been] In countries such as Hungary, Poland, Turkey, China and Taiwan”.
Basketball is a sport that teaches discipline and leadership skills. Wright was one individual who wanted to put these skills to use and influence the youth outside the court, creating his own brand under the name Avant-Garde, “Avant-Garde was my first charity event and I hope it continues to grow and is able to help more youth every year.”
Taking inspiration from the French phrase, Wright wanted to embody the meaning; forward-thinking, innovative and cutting edge. His vision was to collect shoes to donate to charitable organizations in Canada and abroad, starting with him going through his own closet and then reaching out to professional athletes around the Greater Area of Toronto (GTA) to collect as many shoes as possible. Top professional Canadian Basketball League players such as Mike Fraser, Dwayne Smith, Freddy Appiah, Alex Johnson, Jabs Newby, and Jermel Kennedy all participated. The organization managed to collect hundreds of shoes and received endorsement from Redbull, who fully sponsored the event and hosted it at their Redbull 381 Projects venue.
Wright expanded on his future charity goals, “I believe that shoes are a powerful tool that help kids reach new opportunities. The shoes I have donated had helped me reach the level that I’m at in my life and now I have a chance to give back.” The shoe drive was also graced by some of Toronto’s up and coming photographers and creatives like Felice Trinidad, Andrew Park, Angelika Sambegova, Oshane Howard, Nafissa Pinas, Jordon Bailey. Their art work was displayed in the venue as a gallery experience for guests to view and learn more about the charitable efforts. The event was entertained with live performances by MARTK’D sneaker artists and Toronto R&B artists Basil Phoenix and LastXCall. Wright’s vision was shared by other organizations, and for the charity event Avant-Garde partnered with Eva’s Place, an organization in Toronto that runs a youth shelter. Eva’s place donated the shoes to a Ghanaian-Canadian ministry called “Good Shepherd” in the Jane-Finch area of Toronto. Working together, they will make the donation available to the youth in the community of Kumasi in Ghana, making one of hopefully many future donations that will help to inspire the youth.
By : Yussuf Yanni