When I first spot Baron Davis he’s all business, handling a last-minute order for one of his celebrity clients less than a week before Christmas. Much like his time in the NBA, Davis is running the point and spearheading the process so it flows as smoothly as possible. Fulfilling a wrapping paper order seems like a far cry from his time as a professional basketball player, but for Davis, it’s just one part of his new empire, the Black Santa Company.
“How meaningful is wrapping paper to a group of kids in Atlanta who may not get Christmas gifts?” He says when we sit down to talk. “But now [Young] Jeezy is stepping up and giving 30 kids Christmas gifts and now they have wrapping paper to tear off and feel special. That wrapping paper is something that brings them a smile.”
Through the Black Santa brand, the two-time NBA All-Star is hoping to do more than put smiles on people’s faces. Using the jolly character as a jumping off point to build an entire ecosystem of characters and content that lasts far beyond the Christmas season.
“What does Black Santa do the other 363 days of the year? He’s going to introduce new characters. For Valentine’s Day it’ll be Mrs. Santa. In January we have a campaign in honor of Martin Luther King called, ‘Dream King and Queen,’ and our ongoing campaign is #GivingHasNoSeason,” Davis explains. “In February we have a coloring book coming out about legends of the past and present like Madame C.J. Walker, Mae Jemison, Quincy Jones, Roger Troutman, and Ernie Barnes. That campaign is called ‘The World Needs Color.’”
But it’s not just merchandise and social media campaigns. Davis plans on leveraging the Black Santa brand to help build studio that will bring new, positive narratives forward.
“We want to become a digital studio built around Black Santa and his point of view, but also present characters that represent the positivity in all cultures like Chinese New Year, Hispanic Heritage Month,” he explains. “For us, the coloring book is IP driven that allows us to go and create a miniseries about Madame CJ Walker or a documentary about Ernie Barnes. For us, we want to operate like a ministudio.”
Though he’s mainly known for his on-the-court prowess, Davis has been making a name for himself in films, too. He’s appeared in several projects such as the Cookout, Hot In Cleveland, and That’s My Boy, and he recently directed a documentary about the storied pro-amateur basketball league in South Central Los Angeles called The Drew. Davis, who wants to attend USC’s prestigious film school, calls the medium “therapeutic.”
“Storytelling is powerful. It became therapeutic to my growth from a kid to an adult,” he says. “ It ultimately allowed me to dream and think about putting myself in all of these different situations that allowed me to have instincts and be creative when it came to the things that I wanted to do on the basketball court as well.
“I’m going to direct a movie soon. I just directed a documentary [The Drew], and I thought people were gonna just be lining up at the door waiting to make a movie with me, but…” he trails off and shrugs. “In my world that’s how it should work, but I just gotta hit them with something they’re not expecting. I have to play their game for a minute.”
After spending his life playing the game of basketball, adjusting to life outside of the league has been hard. Though he’s talked about making a comeback, he’s also enjoying this new chapter of his life.
“Having kids and a family has been a great transition because I never had that when I was playing,” he says. “But it’s so hard because you still want to be a part of it, and you want to call and text dudes and it’s not that they don’t respond, it’s just they’re busy and you’re not caught up in their world. You just try to find ways you can stay in the loop and find the camaraderie. These are people you go from a boy to a man with and then all of a sudden you’re not welcome as much as you were before. That’s the struggle, finding something to help fill that void.”
In addition to spending time with his wife and children, Davis fills the void by working on the Black Santa company and giving back to the community. Recently, he partnered with former NFL star Marshawn Lynch to bring a little Christmas cheer to kids in Oakland.
“I want to make money, and I want other people and foundations to make money alongside of us. I want to find people who are doing good and help them grow,” Davis says of his budding company. “When people say you can’t do something, you really can if you just work a little harder. For me, I’m trying to lead this company by just being the hardest working person in the company.”
For more information on Black Santa, visit the company’s website here.