Odell Beckham Jr. was at The Opening this past weekend in Oregon, the biggest recruiting camp in the country for college football prospects. It’s run by Nike, so the brand’s biggest NFL athlete made an appearance.
But an OBJ appearance at a camp full of up-and-coming football players isn’t typical. Beckham’s more like a rockstar.
A video he posted on his Instagram shows how. He arrives at the camp — where the young prospects are overjoyed — and just dances with the dumbfounded athletes.
Beckham is by far the biggest star the NFL has to offer today. By the time his NFL career is over, he’s going to be the player with the longest lasting influence from his generation.
He’s the most recognizable player in the league. Part of it is because of his curly blonde hair. Part of it is his catches that make you starve for an instant replay. Part of it is because of his style on and off the field. It also helps that he plays on the biggest stage in New York.
Fans can relate to him outside of football as well. He gives fans a sense of how they imagine themselves living life as an NFL superstar. Nobody’s done that as well as he has since his arrival, and he’s just getting started.
Beckham produces numbers on the field that have made him one of the best receivers in the NFL since his arrival in 2014. But he’s already had a signature career play that put him on the map.
The two most iconic athletes in history — Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali — had a number of these during their respective careers. The two best examples would be Ali standing over Sonny Liston in 1960, and Jordan crossing Byron Russell into history for the series-winner in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.
Beckham’s (first) iconic moment was his catch against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football in 2014.
The catch was the final introduction anybody needed that hadn’t heard of him up until that point. The catch was so damn good, you would be mad if it happened against you in a game of Madden.
That moment was the first building block he needed to become bigger than just another NFL star. Since then, he’s taken advantage of it.
Nobody has more fun on the field
The old-head sports fan in your life’s biggest gripe against Beckham is how he’s always dancing on the field and celebrating. Gone are the days where the football is placed on the ground or given to the referee after a score. Week to week, fans aren’t sure what they’re going to see out of Beckham, and that’s just another reason to tune in.
He helped make the whip popular in his first two seasons as one of his go-to celebrations. One time he even timed a penalty flag toss so well it went perfectly with the graphic on the broadcast. That’s the stuff of legend.
This past season, Beckham started getting more creative with his celebrations. He was also randomly dancing all over the field prior to games.
Many of his celebrations came in the form of various Michael Jackson tributes. His rendition of “Thriller” was well done for a man in full football uniform.
This is significant, because music and dancing is something that resonates in a strong manner with many people. Heck, he even proposed to a kicking net this past season after getting beat up by it.
Is doing all of it extra? Yes. Does it really matter? No.
Bringing that to the field shows Beckham is human. He might be somebody that — if given the chance to meet — you would have something in common with. Football is a game, and games are supposed to be fun. He’s making it fun.
He brings the style on and off the field
Having customized cleats has been a practice that’s grown in football over the past decade, but Beckham has taken it to another level.
Beckham’s worn a variety of customized cleats that have celebrated Christmas with the Grinch, paid tribute Craig Sager with vibrant colors, or honored America in remembrance of 9/11.
The NFL doesn’t allow the customized cleats during the game, yet Beckham’s been able to be so creative with it that it’s still been noticed as his staple. His visor that has the Joker from Batman also sets Beckham apart from other players.
Off the field, he brings even more style — designer clothes, the latest Jordans, or a classic outfit that draws on nostalgia. He has an appeal that many strive for, while also bringing an appreciation for the past.
Cooling it in a TuneSquad jersey from Space Jam in a fresh pair of Jordan 1s is just one example of that.
His signature hairstyle has also been something that’s allowed people to easily identify him. At first, he started off with a more simple ombre finish to his mohawk. He’s now let it grow out even more, and taken on a bleach blonde look. It’s been one that’s been replicated by plenty of young fans, and popular enough to where he’s gotten an endorsement from Head and Shoulders.
He has over 2,300 posts on Instagram, that show a variety of different outfits. His 8.6 million followers are an exposure that athletes in the past didn’t have. Beckham utilizes it to give people a glance at his style off the field.
Most NFL players limit what we know about them to the gridiron. They’re football players that live and breathe football, and nothing else. J.J. Watt is the ultimate example. That’s not a knock on Watt, but outside of enjoying football it’s hard to relate to him.
Beckham displays who he is on and off the field. He’s shown up courtside at the NBA Finals, which was an even bigger deal this season with the Cavaliers and Warriors facing off for a third-straight season.
Showing up to other sporting events is not exclusive to Beckham. But he’s seen more often than other NFL players are — and draws more eyes.
He’s also the only NFL player who is heavily involved with internet culture. Famouslos32, one of the more prominent Instagram users today, is friends with Beckham.
Beckham has shared his videos before, some of which include himself as the subject.
He’s also been kicking it with Pattiwhack, and his longtime friend DancingDan, who became one of the hottest memes of 2017.
There’s no other athlete in sports that has put himself in meme culture the way that Beckham has. Viral video stars have gigantic audiences outside of sports. By putting himself in the middle of that, Beckham’s reach is greater than just NFL fans.
It might also be the thing that separates him the most. The Instagram stars mentioned above are just some of the wildly popular stars Beckham is hanging out with. It’s also much of what is being consumed by young fans and athletes. By seeing him in those videos, it only makes him that much more of a star in the eyes of many.
All of these things seem little, but it’s how young fans are molding some of their earliest sports memories. It’s fun, harmless, and he’s a good player. That’s a recipe for growing a fanbase for life.
He’s still just 24 years old, and pending any bad injuries, has a long career ahead of him. The way things are going now, we'll be talking about Odell Beckham Jr. well after his playing days are done.
Source: SB Nation | Harry Lyles Jr. | July 6th 2017
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