by Matt Lawyue / @mlawyue
Yesterday morning, media outlets from around the world descended upon Studio 59 in Chelsea Piers, Manhattan for the announcement of the World Basketball Festival this summer in New York City. This four-day celebration, August 12-15, of basketball, music and culture will be the launching pad for the 2010 FIBA World Basketball Championships at the tail end of summer in Turkey, August 28 to September 12.
Here’s a quick rundown for each day of the WBF:
Thursday, August 12: “A showcase featuring members of the 2010 USA Basketball National Team on an open-air court in Times Square, to an unprecedented Times Square concert by a surprise musical act.”
Friday and Saturday, August 13 and 14: “The action moves uptown to New York City’s legendary basketball courts at Rucker Park in Harlem. Rucker Park will be home to open-air practices and scrimmages by National Teams from Brazil and Puerto Rico, and training by France, mixed with performances by top international music acts, in addition to a grassroots youth tournament serving as the championships for some of New York’s top summer basketball leagues. Fans will also be invited to participate in clinics here designed to improve training and basketball skills. The two days at Rucker Park will culminate with a special celebration on Saturday, August 14. Details will be provided closer to the day.”
Sunday, August 15: “An exciting exhibition double-header featuring the United States taking on France (1 p.m. EDT) and China meeting Puerto Rico (3:30 p.m. EDT) at famed Madison Square Garden.”
When Nike and Team USA says “open-air court in Times Square” and “open-air practices and scrimmages,” they’re talking about using official, regulation-size hard-wood floors. In Times Square. In Rucker Park. Unbelievable.
SLAM was well represented at this event, as Ben, Lang, Dennis (our publisher) and I took in the press conference. We walked in to a studio submerged by machine fog and found black, WBF shirts waiting on our chairs. They were all a size medium, which Lang had no use for, so lucky me got two. Then the lights dimmed, and the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem sang a rendition of 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, and it sounded decent live.
When the lights came back on, who pops on stage but none other than a New Yorker himself, Kenny “The Jet” Smith, who’s emceeing this roundtable discussion with Charlie Denson, Nike Brand President; Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball Chairman; Yi Jianlian, New Jersey Nets forward; and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder forward.
“The World Basketball Festival will be an unforgettable event for the people of New York City and basketball fans around the world,” Denson said. “Every two years we plan to connect the global world of basketball to celebrate the sport while leaving a lasting legacy within the community.”
Colangelo added, “We’re thrilled with the opportunity to bring the energy and excitement of USA Basketball’s Men’s National Team to fans and give them with a way to celebrate their team. We are honored to have the opportunity to represent the United States in the FIBA World Championship and I can’t think of a better sendoff for our team than the World Basketball Festival.”
Colangelo obviously tip-toed around which players would be available from the 32-man roster (only 12 make the cut), with the likes of LeBron, Kobe, Dwight etc… all dealing with free agency, injuries, or in Carmelo’s case, marriage. He did proclaim Durant would be on the squad, who will have to step up in a leadership role with a younger squad around him, compared to the ’08 Olympic team. Durant didn’t make the cut for Beijing, but he’s certainly capable of becoming the focal point of Team USA ’10. The coaching staff is a carry over from Beijing, comprised of Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and assistants Jim Boeheim, Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan.
Just some quick facts about the World Basketball Championships: Team USA has not won gold since ’94 and recently earned the bronze medal in ’06. America certainly values the Olympic games more than the World’s, a complete contrast to the rest of the basketball universe, which views this as the FIFA World Cup of basketball. Team USA will open preliminary rounds August 28 in Istanbul in Group B, along with Brazil, Croatia, Iran, Slovenia and Tunisia.
Because the WBF will be held in New York, Nike will partner, “with USA Basketball and New York City, in particular the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development and the New York City Housing Authority, to support youth programming and the installation and refurbishment of basketball courts at 25 Community Centers throughout New York City,” according to the press release.
After the Q + A, an assortment of breakdancers, a violinist, a drummer and flashing lights flooded our senses. Big props to Nike for putting on a show Lang referred to as “part Avatar,” for a relatively simple announcement.
Next up were members of each of the Nike brands associated with the event: Converse, Jordan Brand and Nike Basketball. Each rep talked about their products, from Converse’s new Star Player Evo kicks, Jordan Brand’s new AIR JORDAN 2010 Outdoor kicks, Nike Basketball’s Hyperdunk 2010 kicks and their big finale, the unveiling of the Hyper Elite Uniforms, which will be worn by teams USA, China, Brazil, France and Puerto Rico. Durant and Yi stepped back on to the stage donning the new unis, exciting the hoarde of bloggers and photojournalists on hand.
This signaled the end of the first half of the presser, as the media was ordered to break for lunch. SLAM take a lunch break? Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE our food, but if you have Nike reps and Kevin Durant in the building, we’re going to be on it. Needless to say, we ducked in to a photoshoot where our man Atiba was ready to photo Durant and Yi. Here’s a quick teaser, but more on this another time…
The second half of the day was the product showcase, which our man Ed The Sports Fan will fill you in on.
Check the rest of the pictures I took from my phone.