Bobby Simmons and LaVelle Sykes On Why There’s No Place Like Home
The Chicago natives reflect on their upbringing, co-founding SucceZZ and their new Jordan Brand collaboration.
Bobby Simmons and Lavelle Sykes know Chicago doesn’t always get the shine it deserves. Despite that, the retail veteran and retired NBA player have been running SucceZZ, one of the best sneaker and fashion boutiques in their city, for over a decade. Upon its founding in 2008, SucceZZ quickly established itself as a premiere cultural hub in Chicago, and not just because the merchandising was on-point. Bobby and Lavelle knew from the start that stores have the potential to instill confidence in the youth, whether through the representation of its accomplished owners or the simple satisfaction of copping fresh kicks.
Timed to the NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, Bobby and Lavelle approached their pieces in the Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection by doing what they do best; they worked together to put on for their city. Tasked with creating an apparel collection that embodies their hometown and its unity, using the transit system as a metaphor, the SucceZZ team brought the Yellow Line to life on a hoodie and long-sleeve T-shirt.
Get to know Bobby and Lavelle below and why, for them, there’s “no place like home.”
Tell us about the SucceZZ and contributing to the Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection.
Bobby Simmons: From being a Jordan Brand athlete, to having this new chance to collaborate together, it’s big. I’m from Chicago and had the opportunity to wear MJ’s sneakers throughout my career. It’s a hell of a feeling, especially with the NBA All-Star Game coming to Chicago.
Lavelle Sykes: At first, we sat down to talk about what Chicago means to us. We both travel a lot, but we love coming home to Chicago. There’s no place like Chicago. I’ve been to New York, Miami, L.A., Venice, Paris, etc., but we love Chicago for how authentic it is. To us, it’s MJ, the home of basketball and the home of the sneaker industry. So we printed “No place like home” on the collection.
What influence do the transit lines play in the design?
Bobby Simmons: The collection makes me smile, because growing up in the competitive nature of basketball, which exists throughout the city of Chicago, [the train] made us unified. Because if you grew up on the South side, you had to go play on the North side, or you had to play on the East side — wherever the toughest competition was. You had to get on the train. We had to travel to play the best in the city, because if you didn’t make a name for yourself, how were you going to get picked? Then I had the opportunity to play at DePaul University. The red line next to the arena is now also right next to SucceZZ. Now I get to see the things I’ve helped build throughout the city come to fruition. It makes me feel really good.
Lavelle Sykes: Our collaboration with Jordan Brand is about the Yellow Line, which has been nicknamed the Skokie Swift. That’s like the end of the line in Chicago. If you’re from Chicago, you know that the Red Line goes straight through the heart of the city. Then you have the other connecting lines that take you through the arteries of the city. It’s like a body. I was honored that we got the Yellow Line, because it’s Skokie. And we use yellow as a dominant color, because it’s bright, shiny and represents success.
Like you said, both of you have traveled all over the world. Why was it important for you to set up shop in Chicago?
Bobby Simmons: One thing about Chicago, and being home, is that I felt it was my duty to give back to the city. It’s about the young kids who come after me. Giving back to where I come from is something I’m big on.
Lavelle Sykes: The store has been open for 11 years now. We’re both sneakerheads. I worked in retail, and he was in the NBA. We thought, “What could we do for our city that’s different?” We looked around, and there were no minority-owned retail stores, except for the ones that went out of business. So, we were like, let’s do it.
Our brand wants you to look and feel successful. We use that as our mantra and our name. Our tagline is, “Life’s what you make it.” In Chicago, you see a lot of negativity, but when you’re in our store, you’re like, “Oh wow, success.” You got to smile.
We both grew up in the projects, in low-income housing. It’s important that a kid can come off the street, see us own a business and know that we can show him how to run his own business. We can talk to him, mentor him and tell him that life’s about choices. That gives him a big, big boost. To us, that’s the most important thing in the world — just us having our brand in the city. We’re not leaving our city for anything.
“We had to catch the train to go places. No car. You couldn't just walk. So we had to travel to get sneakers.”
How have you seen basketball and sneaker culture unite people?
Bobby Simmons: From being an NBA player and a Jordan Brand athlete, collectively, I’ve seen that happen, because I played in all retros. So now I have an extensive PE collection, and we have them hanging up in the store. Some of the kids might ask, “Whose shoe is that?” It has my number and my name on it, and it becomes a conversation starter. If they’re younger, they may not know who Bobby Simmons is, but they know the sneakers.
Lavelle Sykes: It’s part of my DNA. I grew up on the South side of Chicago in the early ‘80s, when MJ started hitting in ‘85, ‘86 and ‘88. We had to catch the train to go places. No car. You couldn’t just walk. So we had to travel to get sneakers. I grew up really wanting things and trying to discover the city. Everything’s in one big place. All of us know somebody that knows somebody. We’re all together as one. At the end of the day, we really are united.
What would you say to Chicago, in terms of what the city’s done for you?
Bobby Simmons: Dear Chicago, continue to inspire, motivate, share passions and seek knowledge for things that we do and don’t know. Continue to be unified.
Lavelle Sykes: Dear Chicago, I love what you’ve done for us. I love the support you’ve given our brand. Without the support of the West side, South side, North side and East side, we wouldn’t be where we are now. It wouldn’t be successful.
We spell success with Zs, because we never sleep. It’s always a hustle in Chicago. Look at MJ. Everybody hustles here. It’s not a rude hustle, it’s a smooth hustle. Chicago, keep hustling. Keep shining.
The full Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection releases globally starting February 15.