Heavy doses of stimuli are on deck—30 years worth.
The Jordan Brand will be setting new expectations for the consumer as we inch closer to the monumental 30th anniversary of MJ and Nike’s creation. The Jumpman is as strong as it has ever been, with no dim in sight—the brand will undoubtedly surge into its third decade of dominance with an intergalactic explosion. Last year, when Jordan Brand athlete Chris Paul released his seventh signature sneaker, the brand cobbled together an opulent glass-caged outdoor hardwood court in the heart of Downtown LA to ensure its shine. It was a beautiful achievement and wonderful fan experience that I believed would be difficult to supplant. I was wrong.
SLAM was one of a handful of media outlets to pull an exclusive invite to the #JordanHangar last week in Los Angeles. When I received a cryptic email from the brand last week, I figured something big had to be looming. There was an event planned that would feature a media scrimmage but there was very little additional info. I was told that I would receive the address to the location on the day of the event and early Thursday morning, the missive arrived. A hangar across from the YouTube building in Playa Vista is where the event would take place. The @Jumpman23 Twitter account released a photo of the court—a luxurious gray and white floor gleaming thanks to carefully orchestrated lighting throughout. It was a gorgeous image.
— Jordan (@Jumpman23) November 6, 2014
I arrived at the site in the early evening before most of the attendees. There were velvet ropes leading into the building with a red carpet and a small sign to the left of the entrance that simply read “Jordan Hangar.” The hangar is a historic Los Angeles monument where the Spruce Goose was built and the property was once owned by visionary Howard Hughes. As I stepped inside, a big white Jordan logo greeted me. To my right, the legendary MJ quote about missing more than 9,000 shots in his basketball career was spelled out on a wall. You know the one—“I’ve failed over and over in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
To my left was an LA-esque Jordan Hangar backdrop that would later be signed by all the attendees. On the floor throughout the entryway, there were Hollywood stars with the names of every Jordan brand partner—a nice LA touch. Two glass cases housed every Jordan model ever—from 1 to XX9—each edition in a red/white colorway. As I passed that, I came up on the MJ installation—a Daniel Arsham-ish white coated puzzle, featuring a number of MJ’s accomplishments such as “788 straight double-digit games”. There were some riddles within the installation, a nice treat for fans of MJ history. At the foot of the installation rested a shoe-selfie platform that was a nice way of allowing everyone in attendance to showcase sneakers in a uniform manner. This was all in the entrance—I had yet to make my way into the heart of the building.
Once I maneuvered around the walls of the entry, I turned a corner and there it was: a beautiful gleaming court that resembled a space odyssey. A gleaming cube hung from the ceiling—this will become a Jumbotron featuring real time box scores for future games here. The clean colors of the court, surrounding black chairs and white ivory stands magnified its importance—the court appeared almost angelic. The hangar looked big enough to house several large airplanes, so there was a great amount of space that allowed some other stations near the court. A glimmering cube with four video screens serve as dribbling stations. A video plays on the screen that allows you to work on your handle—you can pick several levels to keep up; I selected rookie and it was a great workout for my dominant and weak hand. There was also a small retail area where consumers will be able to purchase Jordan brand products as well as iPad’s and TV screens that allow you to see different outfits modeled on the screen, allowing the consumer a better understanding of how the clothing may look linked up. A tricked out Jordan Flight truck was also nearby, pressing customized T-shirts for all attendees. There was also a combine station on hand that measured vertical and lateral explosion.
When most of the media arrived, we made our way into the locker room—a lounge complete with luxurious couches and photos of CP3, Blake Griffin and MJ above. At our lockers, we had gear for the scrimmage, carefully spaced out for optimal impact. Walking into that room was exciting—I must have sat in my chair for 15 minutes before moving anything. Everybody was examining colorways and their fit. I had an all-red pair of the CP3.VIII laced up and ready to go in my space. I slipped on all my gear and headed out to the court. When we touched the hardwood, Jordan Brand President Larry Miller was there to greet us. Miller has had an extensive career in the business world and his stints with the Portland Trail Blazers and Jordan Brand allow him basketball insights rivaled by few. Miller welcomed us warmly and let us know that the Jordan Hangar will be an important venue for the brand moving forward. It will serve as a home base for Jordan Brand athletes, particularly CP3 and Blake, as well as high school teams. Heading into the 30th anniversary, Miller is pleased with the direction of the Brand and its latest partners, most notably rookie Jabari Parker and All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. Following some kind words from Miller and an introduction to Jordan Brand Manager Jeron Smith—whose team spearheaded the execution— the court was ours. Jumpers went up and the first two teams were set—game to 11, ones and twos.
Our squad was strong. I lucked out with the shooting draw: Ballislife’s Darin Nakauchi was our lightning-quick point guard and Jeffrey Jason of Jason Markk had the deep arc on lock thanks to his ridiculous Alex Dillard-like range. Tyree Dillihay—known to many as @SneadsbyRee—held down the pivot for us. From a wear-testing standpoint, the CP3s were lovely. They felt light and comfortable on my flat feet, offering quality stability for a low top—I had no concerns about my ankles, they felt locked in.
There weren’t many bigs on hand, so the court appeared wide open. The lighting aided our sight lines, passing lanes were wide open and I don’t remember another time where I passed the ball so well. We jumped out to an early 6-1 lead by sharing the ball and using a lot of screen and roll. After the first trip down, we immediately shifted to a 2-3 defense, daring our opponents to shoot from deep. It was a great strategy for us, the difficult shots led to long rebounds and run outs and we had them on their heels. I spent all my time on offense cutting between the blocks, trying to get my post game on—I definitely had LaMarcus on my mind. I missed a few bunnies in the key but hit a contested fade away on the baseline that received some love from the crowd, which really got me going. Soon enough though, I became plagued with a major side ache, the true punishment for being out of shape. Darin, Jeff and Tyree carried us, but the runouts had us winded and we hit a stretch where we couldn’t get a bucket despite quality looks. Our opponents relied on a former soccer player from Dartmouth that was giving us that work—he’d constantly find two people on him thanks to our zone, but still had no problems getting his shots. He was damn good and helped them close the gap, but we managed a few more buckets to get us to game point, 10-7. At this point, my old body began to lock up a bit and during a few instances I literally didn’t run down on offense to catch my breath. I was hoping someone on our team would bail me out and get that last bucket so I wouldn’t have to be the only one in the building that subbed out of a freaking game to 11!
I finally caught my lung wind back and made it down to the offensive end. We spread the court and I snuck into the key for a rebound and put back, ending the game and saving what little pride I had left. As the ball went through the net, I ran to the bench and sat down. My teammates arrived shortly thereafter. There were a few of us lounging and going over plays from the game as we saturated our Jordan gear with sweat. For the next couple of minutes, it felt like I was a teen again, laughing about our mistakes and cherishing our good plays. The gear, the sneaks and environment—all of it led to that feeling and it was glorious to relive. The next team hit the court and since winners stay on, it was our time again. I was completely done after one game, so I gave my spot to the soccer player from Dartmouth—he deserved it.
I told a member of the Jordan PR team that I needed an ice bath and he suggested an Epson salt bath. I repeated the word Epson and he thought I said something else—Absinthe. “Yes, I replied. I probably could use some of that too.”
The games continued. A taco truck was grilling magic outside the hanger, so I cruised over for a quick bite and a bottle of Mexican Coke—boom. I enjoyed the food and as I looked on—my dude Jacques Slade (aka @kustoo) was putting down crab dribbles and step-throughs at that point—I was enjoying the show. Nobody wanted to leave—we all knew this was a once in a lifetime experience and attempted to hold on as long as we could. As we were wrapping up, I climbed up the back stairs to the lighting booth to get the highest vantage point of the court. I stood there for as long as I could—it was truly breathtaking.
Nima Zarrabi is a Senior Writer at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @NimaZarrabi_.