NEW YORK – Devin Booker and Kyler Murray have obvious ties.
Franchise players for professional teams in Arizona.
Same jersey number. They’ve led their respective teams to the playoffs.
Played college ball in the Southeastern Conference, but there’s another connection who knew them way before they landed in the Valley to ball out for the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals.
Avery Johnson Jr.
“I’ve known Avery for a long time,” Booker said. “We’ve been friends since middle school.”
Johnson Jr. met Murray in high school in Texas.
“That relationship has just grown ever since,” Murray said.
Johnson Jr. is much more than just close friends with Booker and Murray, though.
Not only is he connected to those two on a personal and professional level, Johnson Jr. is a rising businessman making it on his own.
The son of former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson, he has launched his own company, Elevate Global, a “full service and entertainment” vehicle representing athletes, brands and entertainers.
“Just expanding into other lanes, other businesses and other athletes,” Johnson Jr. said. “Hiring people into the company so I use what I’ve learned from (Booker and Murray) and operate on a global level and using that and leveraging other clients and other players.”
Johnson Jr., 27, is just getting started.
“To watch his career go from basketball to what he’s doing now, he was always a step ahead of everybody his age,” Booker said. “He’s on the route to do big things. He already has. He’s somebody that his ear is always to the street. He’s always on the road. He knows what’s going on.”
Having finalized partnerships and investments for Murray, Booker and Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham, Johnson Jr. has created a company that will focus on “contract negotiation, marketing representation, brand representation, business development and creating IP.”
He also is preparing to open a restaurant/lounge, 40 Love, in Scottsdale in “early 2023” in partnership with nightlife group, H.wood, which is based out of Los Angeles and has restaurants all over the world from Dubai to Toronto and throughout the United States.
“Just a cool project,” Johnson Jr. said. “An exclusive spot that’s going to have A-list celebrities, performances.”
The new nightspot in Scottsdale is backed by “global athletes and entertainers.”
Being in the sports world at an early age, Johnson Jr. developed into a Division I basketball prospect, was on the AAU circuit and found himself among the nation’s best talent at an NBPA Top 100 camp.
Booker also was there.
“We played against each other,” Johnson Jr. said.
They’ve been really tight ever since. Avery Johnson remembers when his son and Booker were younger.
“I remember when Devin Booker was in high school and he was sleeping on the floor in Avery’s room and Avery was sleeping in the bed,” Johnson said. “I remember like, wow, you know, why aren’t you in the guest room? They just wanted to be together and train together.”
Johnson attended Booker’s high school jersey retirement ceremony last month in Moss Point, Mississippi, but that wasn’t the first time those two have shared a special moment.
“When Devin walked across the stage to get drafted, when his name was called, Avery Jr. was there,” said Johnson as Phoenix picked Booker 13th overall out of Kentucky.
Johnson Jr. and Murray connected during high school years in Texas.
They played in the same high school district in Texas. Murray was a phenom at Allen High while Johnson put in work at Plano West.
“Avery and Kyler, from Day 1, they were like brothers,” Johnson said. “I can remember when even Kyler was playing in high school, coming over to spend some time with us, they were inseparable. I think there was a healthy sense of respect because both ended up playing at a high level at Power 5 schools.”
Johnson Jr. and Murray started their college careers at Texas A&M before transferring. Johnson Jr. went to Alabama to play for his father while Murray landed in Oklahoma and won the Heisman Trophy.
“Tremendous amount of respect for Kyler and the Murray family,” Johnson said. “They’ve been very consistent with Avery Jr. They’ve entrusted him. They believe in him and he’s a part of their inner circle, which is not very easy to get into.”
Murray acknowledged the elder Johnson when talking about his close relationship with Johnson Jr.
“To help out with me, be friends with my pops and my mom,” Murray said.
Johnson Jr. earned an undergraduate degree in marketing and Master’s in sports business management at Alabama. Not interested in playing overseas or coaching as he received offers to join staffs at Baylor and other colleges, Johnson Jr. started exploring the business side of athletics.
“I wanted to go to the NBA like anybody else that’s played D-I, you want to go that next level, but once I saw that wasn’t really a path, which was fine, I wanted to stay around in sports,” he said.
Johnson Jr. even envisioned working in a franchise front office, but he’s found a lane that fits his ambitious mindset, smarts and relationship building skills.
“I’m really proud of him because he’s understood the power of relationship and networking more than success and money,” Johnson said. “He’s understood the power of relationships and networking from an early age and the power of influence. I can remember back when he was in middle school and he was playing sports, but he was always business minded.”
Selling sneakers. Negotiating deals.
After his final season with the Crimson Tide in 2018-19, Johnson Jr. moved to Phoenix and started working with Booker as a day-to-day manager.
“It really was a natural transition,” Johnson Jr. said.
Johnson Jr. said that job put him in contact with several people and companies.
Then when the Cardinals drafted Murray with the top overall pick in 2019, Johnson started running his management and brand.
“Once he moved out there, I just pitched him on the plan and the brand and he hired me as well,” Johnson Jr. said. “… Once he got to Phoenix, it just made sense for me to work with both of them.”
Johnson Jr. served as a consultant for brands such as Overtime Elite that Booker has invested in as well as Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Hawks guard Trae Young.
Overtime Elite is based out of Atlanta and promises high school athletes six-figure deals if they skip college, Sporting News reported. Hip-hop artist Drake, billionaire Jeff Bezos and millionaire Alexis Ohanian, the husband of Serena Williams, have also invested in it, USA Today reported.
Johnson Jr. played a role in Booker connecting with Overtime Elite as well as Murray joining FaZe Clan, one of the largest esports and gaming organization in the world.
“For that friendship to continue into an entrusted business relationship really speaks to how they feel about one another and how they both have such a healthy sense of respect for each other’s skill set,” said Johnson about the Murray-Johnson Jr. bond.
Johnson has also negotiated endorsements from Verizon, Rocket Mortgage, Buffalo Wild Wings, Koia and Franklin Templeton.
“I have an assortment of deals I’m in,” Johnson Jr. said. “I’m in healthcare tech business. I’m in the hospitality space. We’ve got the investments. The marketing, the branding. I’m expanding out. Bringing my clients and my top guys into other deals that’s not just typical endorsement deals. Just branching out into other investments and investment groups.”
All these experiences have given Johnson Jr. the blueprint and confidence to launch his own company and expand his relationships with athletes and beyond.
“They know with Avery Jr., they have somebody who has a strong lineage of being a professional athlete,” Johnson said. “He knows what it looks like. He knows the pressures. He knows the ups and downs. He knows all the ends and outs of it. He knows how to help you with your marketing. He knows how you have to train. He knows the commitment. He knows the type of friends you need to hang around and the ones you shouldn’t have in your inner circle.”
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at email@example.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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Businessman Avery Johnson Jr.'s connection with Kyler Murray … – The Arizona Republic
NEW YORK – Devin Booker and Kyler Murray have obvious ties.