by Tzvi Twersky | @ttwersky

The driver, seemingly as confused as those of us riding in the back of his luxury sedan, wasn’t allowed to say where we were going. He offered us water. He offered us FM radio. He offered us heat. But he did not offer us even the slightest hint of where Jordan Brand had told him to drop us off.

Twenty minutes and one state—we left New York and entered New Jersey via the George Washington Bridge—later, the driver pulled into a typical shopping center, complete with two fast food chains and a hardware store.

“Could this be the place?” we wondered. “There’s nothing here.”

“This is not our final destination,” the driver said, cutting off our thoughts with his first words in some time.

“I was told not to drop you off for another 20 minutes. We’ll wait here for a bit.”

So we waited…and waited…and…waited.

Silently, after peaking at the dashboard clock, the driver suddenly shifted into gear and we resumed our nerve-rattling journey.

As we passed a blue-and-white roadside sign that read TETERBORO AIRPORT, our driver slowed. After a short, inaudible call to his dispatcher, he drove another stretch and eased into a right turn that led directly to what appeared to be a fenced-in airport hanger.

Security approached. Tinted windows rolled down. Words were exchanged. A menacing metal fence opened and allowed us to enter.

We exited the vehicle and soaked in the hangar. It was a nondescript building, minus a large Jumpman logo adorning the wall on the right of the door. By the time we walked forward and approached the dark and heavy-looking door, by the time we stood ready to enter the great unknown that Jordan Brand had prepared for us, our hearts were beating faster than a Chris Paul dribble-drive.

—–

As sneaker obsession has grown over the last decade or so, Jordan Brand has mastered the art of anticipation. In the months leading up to the annual Air Jordan launch, they consistently have sneakerheads refreshing their computers and surfing the most obscure of sites, all in hopes of finding a leaked photo of the upcoming Jordans. They have even the most average of consumers ready to drop a couple Benjamins on the day—usually in January or February—the shoe drops. And they have the media scratching their heads while they ponder how Jordan Brand intends to debut their latest offering.

Last year, the AJ 2011 was first showcased at Madison Square Garden, where the media got to play ball in the Mecca as Miami Heat looked on from the sidelines. In 2010, the site was South Beach. And a couple years before that, in 2007, for the AJ XXIII, the media was invited to Chicago, where they were introduced individually over the PA system at the United Center one by one until, lastly, the man that built the building on the back of win after win, Michael Jordan, came out and joined them.

Yes, there’s no arguing that JB has the Air Jordan debut down to a science. And this year was no different.

—–

With much less force than we anticipated, the door opened and we stepped into the hangar.

Black curtains separated the aluminum-roofed room into multiple segments. In the first one, an airport gate of sorts, branded chairs and coffee tables offered a chilling area. A few feet away, women dressed in stewardess’ gear took down everyone’s name as they checked them in for the day.

Once everyone was registered and settled, we made our way to a second room.

A big screen and slideshow and uncomfortable chairs invited us in. It would’ve been forgettable, if not for the two legends—Tinker Hatfield and Tom Luedecke—on stage. They would proceed to break down the AJ 2012, from inception (Hatfield drew initial ideas using SketchPad pro on his iPad), to logistics (“We pretty much gutted the AJ 2011 and started from that,” says Hatfield), to Mike’s take (“The wingtips, man!”) on the shoe.

After that, it was time for us to wear test our very own pair in the third room, a hastily assembled but amazingly professional full-length basketball court. Led by workout guru and SLAM columnist Idan Ravin, we were put through an intense workout that would have dropped many an out of shape NBA player.

We stretched. We did calisthenics. We contorted our bodies and AJ 2012s every which way—and those with great lungs even played some pickup afterwards.

After an all-too-brief cool down period, we entered a fourth room, a gallery of different AJ 2012 colorways. As we pushed our way further into the fully furnished space, we noticed two computers logged in to Nike’s iD page.

Then we were told we’d be allowed to iD our very own pair of 2012s.

Then we pretty much blacked out in a fit of sneakerhead’s delight.

—–

That was it for yesterday. Today, though, today the beat continues to build as we unveil SLAM Presents Jordan Brand, the insider’s guide to JB’s oncourt and offcourt kicks, as well as a complete look at upcoming athletic and performance apparel.

Packed with pictures on pictures on pictures of Mike and the Brand’s biggest endorsers (as well as shoe-centric features with exclusive quotes from rarely heard from members of the Jordan Brand family) that you’ll see in no other print or web publication, SLAM Presents JORDAN BRAND is sure to exceed your wildest expectations.

Just like every Jordan Brand unveiling does.

Look for it on newsstands by the end of next week, and for now enjoy the cover and all the names on it.