by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
When I began handling sneaker coverage, among other things, at SLAMonline, I knew there would be perks—from getting the chance to rub elbows with NBA endorsers like Brandon Jennings and even a future Hall of Famer like Shaquille O’Neal, to the opportunity to preview the latest kicks releases before they hit the streets.
But I never imagined I would hear my name over the Madison Square Garden loudspeakers. Never imagined I’d find myself running up and down on the same hardwood where legends were born, history was made, memories were forged. Here I was, stepping onto the most famous basketball court on the planet, determined not to embarrass myself.
How did I get here?
It happened on Thursday, February 2, and I have the amazing people at Foot Locker to thank for one of the most incredible basketball-related days I’ve ever experienced. Upon arriving at the Garden, we—myself, plus a couple dozen fellow bloggers and media types based in New York City, including SLAM Ed. Ben Osborne—were ushered into the Visitor’s locker room adjacent to the famed court. There hung our attire for the day: a fresh-out-the-box pair of Kobe VIIs, plus Mamba shorts and socks to match (for others, LeBron 9s or adiRose 2.5s) and an Under Armour duffle bag stuffed with Mission Court Grip and Power Grip, Monster iSport headphones and Mint shoe care products.
Of all the swag bags to come through the SLAM offices, this ranks at the top. Although, my judgment may very well be clouded by what came next…
It’s an odd thing, knowing you’re about to set foot on hallowed ground a few hours before the men who call it home do the same—a few hours before Derrick Rose goes off for 32 points in a 105-102 Bulls win over the Knicks. I don’t have to tell you that I wanted to get at least one shot up (what would the story be without it?), but I was determined not to disgrace myself and MSG with airballs, turnovers and sloppiness. (Sounds simple enough, but I have a Jason Williams-ish gene that can turn my game into playground ball at the drop of a hat.)
Naturally, after all that preparation, I jacked up the first open look I had, an NBA-range three from a few steps to the left of the top of the key. I stared at the rim while the ball hurdled at the hoop, wondering when the orange orb would come into focus. Every other time I’ve shot a basketball, I could tell you if it was going in or not, if it “felt good.” This time, I had absolutely no idea. And then, swish. I was so surprised by the sweet, net-burning cash of the shot that I barely even flinched. In retrospect, I should have hit the “crowd” of 15-20 Foot Locker employees and friends with the Nate Rob 3-ball eyes, an Antoine Walker shimmy, a Jordan shrug or even a JLin head bob.
At the next whistle I asked the acting referee if she thought I ought to retire from basketball at that moment, 1-1 from the field with 3 points. “Should I just walk off the court?” If she laughed or said anything back to me, I don’t remember. I wasn’t paying attention. What I do remember is running up and down the court for the remainder of our 40-minute game with a smile on my face, taking in a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play ball in an NBA arena.
My team, the White team, won the game pretty handily, and I finished with 5 points—the other basket on a driving reverse layup in traffic (that sounds way cooler than it looked). But most importantly, zero turnovers. Whew. Clyde Frazier and Earl The Pearl might still cringe if they ever see the video, but I could go to sleep happy.
After the assembled staff peeled us off the court against our will, just in time for the lovely Knicks dancers to practice (none of us wanted to leave, trust) we headed upstairs for a preview of Foot Locker’s month ahead in sneaker releases. Determined to make February the #HottestMonthEver, Foot Locker is rolling out 24 shoe releases in 29 days, some of which I previewed for you earlier this month. And from what we saw in the post-game media session, you will want to be locked in, so follow Foot Locker on Twitter, use the hashtag #HottestMonthEver and be sure to stay current with us here at SLAMonline for all the latest.
A huge thanks to Foot Locker, and to SLAM, for getting me in the building. And a huge apology to every SLAMonline reader, who will undoubtedly hate my guts now.