Lawyer and former college basketball player, Braeden Anderson, has a unique and fascinating personal story, and he frequently has been urged to share it. He made national headlines in college for playing NCAA Division I basketball for the Seton Hall University Pirates while attending law school full-time. And while parts of Braeden’s life have already been chronicled by Law360, The New York Times, ABA Journal, NBC Sports, USA Today, NPH, CBC, ESPN and others, his dynamic personal and professional journey remains largely untold.
Braeden’s life has been riddled with a collection of seemingly insurmountable and overwhelming bouts of adversity, each which he met with tenacity, perseverance and astonishing triumph. He was born to a white teenage mother in rural Canada in 1992 in Edmonton, Alberta, after his black biological father and Nigeria’s basketball team defected to Canada in 1991 after the FIBA world championships. His biological father abandoned him and his mother 48 hours after his birth, leaving his newborn son with only a worn-out basketball.
Growing up in rural Canada, Braeden battled an unstable household and brutal racism. He was called the N-word and savagely beaten by white supremacists, and endured periods of homelessness. The adversity that Braeden suffered during the early years of his life have challenged him to develop a unique and intriguing life strategy.
In his youth, Braeden was motivated to become a great basketball player because he saw the sport as his ticket to escape a toxic environment, and to support himself and his family. He also pushed himself to excel academically to make the most of his academic scholarship. He was motivated to play basketball while in law school because he wanted to set an example for other student athletes and teach them that they are capable of anything. He endeavored to show other student athletes and his teammates that they were being paid in education. He wanted to “walk-the-walk” and establish a platform so that he could advocate for the advancement of the rights of NCAA athletes in the future. He wanted to land at a top ranked law firm to hone his legal skills and establish the reputation he would need to effect real change.
When Braeden told his first college coach that he wanted to play basketball while in law school, his coach laughed in his face. “That’s impossible!” He said. “You’re an idiot. I have been coaching for 25 years. No college coach in the country will let you do that!” He laughed. When Braeden was asked how he was able to ignore the doubts of naysayers and stay focused on achieving his ultimate goal, he said, “There are many people in our lives that will not believe in us, or our goals. Sometimes these people are our parents. Sometimes a coach, a teacher, a friend or a spouse. The opinions of those that we respect or admire can be difficult to shake, especially when they are negative.”
The determined athlete also added, “We all try to make the best decisions we can with the information and experiences we have. I suspect that my coach did that. He reflected on his personal experiences and concluded (apparently humorously) that my goal of playing basketball while in law school was a foolish and impossible one. Moments like these really test our level of dedication to our ideas, and our level of belief in ourselves. This story ends with me eventually proving my coach wrong, and playing the sport I loved while attending law school. But this story is not about that. This story is about the lesson that this experience taught me. It taught me the importance of maintaining humility, even after one has enjoyed success and experience in their field. It taught me the art and virtue of approaching problems and ideas with a beginner’s mind.”
Braeden strongly believes in the importance of possessing an adaptable mind. “A mind that is flexible and accepting of new ideas. A mind that approaches the opinions of others like a sponge, and not like a brick. A mind that understands that if the rules that govern our universe will allow something to happen, it is possible. A mind that knows that if the rules of physics will allow something to happen, it can be done. A mind endowed with the knowledge that impossible is nothing,” he concludes.
Braeden is now an associate attorney at Sidley Austin LLP in the Securities Enforcement and Regulatory group, which received the 2019 Chambers USA Award for Financial Services Regulation. In 2020, Sidley Austin LLP was named the “Law Firm of the Year” for Securities Regulation.
There’s no doubt that nothing can stop Braeden Anderson once he sets his mind into achieving a goal. He regularly documents his career growth through his website. Readers can follow Anderson through his continued journey on his Instagram, LinkedIn profile, and Twitter.