OP alumnus aims for 2020 Olympics

Kareem Maddox, USA basketball champion


Photo courtesy of USA

Kareem Maddox hopes to participate in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

“Oak Park holds a very special place in my heart.”

Kareem Maddox graduated from Oak Park High School in 2007 and went on to attend Princeton University as a player on their Division I basketball team. Maddox remembers his time at OPHS fondly. He also favorably remembers his coaches and teachers.

“I moved there as a freshman and very quickly found my crew of friends,” Maddox said. “I had some incredible mentors at Oak park from our coach at the time, Ed Chevalier, to the coaches of the team, to Matt Micek (Lord Micek), who I still work out with. He’s been a huge part of my life [regarding] playing basketball. [He’s] just a really smart guy. I encourage everyone at Oak Park to continue to listen to him,” Maddox said.

Maddox was a busy student in high school, participating in many extracurriculars including cross country, track and basketball.

“I ran cross country for two years and I ran track for four, so I wasn’t always exclusively basketball,” Maddox said. “In addition to that, I was ASB president, I did peer counseling.”

In addition to his athletic endeavors, Maddox also participated in theatre during his senior year, commenting that he wishes he had done more throughout his high school career.

“I did a little bit of everything,” Maddox said.“I was the judge in ‘Hello Dolly,’ which was so much fun. I’m so happy I did that and my only regret was that I didn’t do more theater before my senior year.”

Maddox commented on his long list of extracurriculars explaining that, to him, high school was “the time do it.”

“I did everything and I just loved it,” Maddox said. “In high school, I had no responsibility. I was encouraged to do everything, so I think any day, I was a bit busy, but I was trying to fit in everything that I could to get the most out of the people at Oak Park and the time that I was spending there.”

Though Maddox thought his workload in high school seemed hard at the time with his classes and extracurriculars, he found that college as a Division I student-athlete to be much more demanding.

“We’d be in the gym and when you’re playing college, you’re there for four days, five hours a day — lifting, practicing, rehabbing, icing, whatever the case may be. You’re down there for a long time, but when you have to fit in a college workload into that schedule, it becomes a lot harder.”

Maddox was clear that he has a strong identity that involves more than just being a basketball player.

“A lot of people will talk about hard work and being in the gym all the time and staying focused and things like that. I think, when I went to Princeton and played in college, I didn’t necessarily focus or dedicate everything to basketball, I wanted to be well-rounded first.”

During his senior year at Princeton, Maddox received an opportunity to play overseas in Poland.

“When the opportunity came up when I was a senior to play overseas, first in the Netherlands, I jumped at it because it was a combination of things that I love to do: play basketball, to travel and to experience different cultures and spent time in different countries,” Maddox said. “I felt like I had a lot of time to work whenever I was ready to do that. So, I just decided to go play.”

Maddox describes the experience of being thrown into another culture as chaotic, yet fun.

“They drop you in a house in the middle of, in my case, Southeast Poland, and they’re like, ‘Here’s a car and here’s your apartment. We’ll see you tomorrow at practice,’” Maddox said. “You learn to rely on people, create friendships across cultures [and] across language barriers.”

Upon coming back from playing basketball overseas in Poland, Maddox received an offer from Gimlet Media, a podcast company.

“I came back and had this opportunity at Gimlet, which is the best podcasting company and arguably the first. Then this year, Gimlet got bought by Spotify,” Maddox said. “So now I work at Spotify and it is just kind of like one of those things where I just, I’d go with the flow and try to do the best I can wherever I’m at.”

Maddox’s love for podcasting stemmed from volunteering at a public radio station.

“I was able to volunteer at KCRW, which is a public radio station in Santa Monica. And that’s when I just fell in love with radio as a medium and a format that I really like, so I just kind of kept going with it and figured out the next stage of evolution for radio,” Maddox said.

Maddox played for Team U.S.A. in the Pan-American games and the World Cup in 2019, bringing home Gold in both competitions.

“It was amazing. I had the chance to represent my country and to win the first-ever three on three gold medal for the U.S. because Serbia always wins it. That was the first time the Pan-American games included three on three basketball. We’re the first team to win that … Anytime you have a chance to represent your country, playing at the highest level of your different sport, it’s an honor and it’s something that I think we’ll remember forever,” Maddox said.

Maddox hopes to represent the American team for the 2020 Olympics, the first year three-on-three basketball will be added.