The good folks at Nike decided to invite yours truly to come and be a part of a big announcement being made in New York City this past Wednesday. That announcement is the formation of the World Basketball Festival. This summer, five of the world’s best basketball teams and top musical performers will meet throughout New York City for the inaugural World Basketball Festival, a four-day celebration of the performance and culture of the game created by NIKE, Inc. and USA Basketball, that Nike has committed to reprising every two years. Nike will host the WBF at 3 prestigious basketball venues in NYC, those being: Times Square, Rucker Park, and Madison Square Garden.
Nike also aligned this announcement with the launch of their Fall 2010 collection, with the focus on their three basketball brands: Nike, Jordan Brand, and Converse. I'm going to break this down diary style, so pay attention and take notes.
Wednesday, 11:08am - Since the great folks at Delta Airlines (I hope you read this, you need to do better) for deciding that their planes are made of balsam wood and pixie sticks, and having no idea on how to actually fix their planes, I didn't make it to the event until 11 o'clock. The event started at 10am. #Fail. Anyway, Matt Lawyue of SLAM told me this is what he walked into at the start of the event:
We walked into the studio and then the lights dimmed, and the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem sang a rendition of Jay-Z & Alicia Keys', Empire State of Mind. For the record, being in NY while the Yankees were making their championship run and hearing this song at minimum four times a day, I can’t stand this song, but the Boys and Girls Club did their thing.
Yes, thank you again Delta for making me miss the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem singing Empire State of Mind. Can you hear the sarcasm? Ok, thanks.
Anyway, Nike brought out NYC's own Kenny Smith to emcee the event and also co-featured the group of Charlie Denson, Nike Brand President; Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball Chairman; and NBA stars Yi Jianlian and Kevin Durant.
The big deal for me of course was chopping it up with Durant, who blew me away with how cool and laid back he is. He talked about watching the 2000 Olympic Team and being inspired by watching them play. (Who couldn't be inspired by watching the ever mercurial Vince Carter leap over a 7'2" Frenchman?) Plus, I asked him about trying out for the 2008 Redeem Team, and he said the biggest thing was going through those wars in practice. Players stopped being friends and really went at each other. He mentioned that some of the practices were some of the most intense competitions he'd ever been through and he really appreciated it and it made him much better as a basketball player. (As evidence of him murking the league the last two seasons.)
Also got a chance to converse with Yi for a bit, I say a bit because ol buddy's English is decent, not great. (However, it is a vast improvement from when he was crossing over folding chairs in workouts.) Get this though, his favorite shoe all-time growing up in China? The Jordan 12's? I was stunned. The man just became that much cooler in my book, big ups to Yi.
Wednesday, 1pm - Got a chance to see the rollout of the 2010 lines by Converse, Jordan, and Nike and I instantly saw my paychecks being devoted to some of the gear on display. I'll let the pictures tell the story.
Thursday, 10am - Madison Square Garden...you did not disappoint.
First off, if you've never been to Madison Square Garden then you have no idea how immersed the arena is within the city. We were just riding along, I'm looking out the window looking crazy because I've never been to NYC, then all of a sudden we're just at MSG. Okay, cool. So we did the entire tour of the facility (shoutout to Craig our tour guide, almost got us lost 3 times. WTF) and went through the locker room of the Knicks, went into the press box (Gus Johnson stand up), and got to kick it with the Knick City Dancers...oh boy. However, nothing comes close to actually standing on the court of MSG. It was epic. I swear I heard John Starks voice as I walked along the baseline of his epic dunk on the Bulls team in the '92 playoffs.
Thursday, 1pm - Holcombe Rucker Park. I can now tell my children and grandchildren that on June 10th, 2010 I had the esteemed honor and privilege of hooping at "The Rucker." There is no better definition of "Shocking The World" then what I was able to experience that afternoon.
With that being said, ladies and gentlemen, courtesy of the great Al Cash (announcer for the Entertainer's Basketball Classic at Rucker Park) I have been given a nickname for Rucker Park.
Big Boy Yella.
Yes, that's right. Ed received a nickname. Doesn't matter that when he said it my jumper started floating to the right and hit the side of the rim instead of going in as planned, as far as I'm concerned I am now official. We got two games in and won one and lost one. Shoutout to the Filipino dude who tried to cross me up and failed, but he did hit a nice jumper in my face to big ups to all my new friends in the Philippines.
Nike gave us a chance to try out some of their new apparel and shoes by organizing a tournament and also the good folks of Chain Link Fundamentals came and did a one-hour basketball workout session as well. Your boy was tired lol. I was given the LeBron 2010 MVP shirt (as you can see on the right) and a pair of Nike Hyperfuses (size 13, and no you can't have them) and they are dope as hell. The Hyperfuses will be worn by Kevin Durant and the rest of Team USA Basketball when they go play in the World Basketball Championships in Istanbul, Turkey in August.
All in all, it was a great time and the folks at Nike really know how to show a brother some love. The World Basketball Festival will be August 12-15, 2010 in New York City and I will do everything in my power to be in attendance. You coming? You know we just might need to Shock The World one more time.
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk (and hopefully on the radio soon) show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!