A couple of months ago, we took a trip to New York to hear about an ambitious new undertaking from Nike Basketball named the World Basketball Festival and last week we got to play witness to the inaugural event, which took place over the course of a few days throughout the city. The WBF festivities took place at a few key locations and historical landmarks such as Harlem’s Rucker Park, the Apollo Theater, Radio City Music Hall with everything culminating with a double-header basketball game at none other than the basketball Mecca, Madison Square Garden.
In addition to the games, Nike really went all in with the Festival and packed it with activities and media sessions that were rather surreal. Special engagements with Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Coach K, Jerry Colangelo, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade were certainly awesome and well exceeded what we all anticipated, but other experiences such as the Make Something!! events at Nike Stadiums were also a special treat. You have all undoubtedly heard about and watched videos emanating from Make Something!!, but to see it first hand and seeing the end result of these very inspirational kids was a pleasant component to the WBF.
Also sprinkled into the WBF experience were three other events that were quite memorable: the Ball Room walk through in Harlem; the premier of Air Force 1: Anatomy of an Urban Legend at the Apollo Theatre; and a live performance by Jay-Z at Radio City Music Hall.
The Ball Room — located in Harlem — is a temporary mini-museum that showcases key pieces from all of Nike, Jordan Brand and Converse including the very first Chuck Taylor, the first Nike Blazer and other shoes that have played a pivotal role in the history of basketball footwear. Other pieces such as examples of the first basketballs used and jerseys, including a rather interesting one that resembled a modern-day bodysuit with snaps in the crotch, were all on loan from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. If you are around NYC, it is a definite must see for any fans of basketball and Nike.
Air Force 1: Anatomy of an Urban Legend, directed by Thibaut de Longeville, reignited my love for the AF1. The classic shoe, which almost became deceased a year after its initial release in 1982, has since gone on to be produced in over 1,700 different colorways and has put up massive sales totals for Nike without enjoying — or even needing — the support of advertising, which pretty much sums up the shoe’s status in today’s sneaker culture. Longeville’s documentary on the shoe does an excellent job of explaining the story, but beware, you will feel an intense desire for a pair.
Last, but certainly not least, was a live performance at Radio City Music Hall by Jay-Z. In all honesty, I was not as fired up as I thought I would be for the show, but once it began I was pretty captivated by it. The lighting was spectacular and Jay-Z, although getting on in years, seriously puts on one hell of a live show. Backed by a full band, Jay ran through a nice array of hits, both past and present, and as another highlight, he performed “Onto the Next One” with track cohort, Swizz Beats.
The initial World Basketball Festival was an amazing time. I can definitely see the potential in this event, especially given basketball’s exponential worldwide growth. With long term plans to have it create a large impact on the global basketball landscape, Nike definitely has set a promising tone with this inaugural festival. The combination of sport, art and music blended seamlessly with each experience being as memorable as the ones preceding.