Thursday, February 16th, 2012 at 1:35 pm  |  10 responses

Madison Square Dreamin’

A basketball experience unlike any other, courtesy of Foot Locker’s #HottestMonthEver.

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.

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  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    Lucky. That is all. lol

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Five points, 0 turnovers… somehow, I can imagine my statline being the reverse. Good stuff, Abe!

  • http://nyill.wordpress.com Enigmatic

    Russ and Ben sighting at 27 second mark!!
    That looked fun as hell.
    The other day Abe inadvertently made me feel like a failure in life when I found out how young he is and he’s already doing his thing at SLAM and here at 28 I’m barely about to go back to school to get a degree and hopefully do something in the journalism world one day. Lol.

  • burnt_chicken

    everyone, everything at its own pace. Stay the course, Enig. I’m sure you’ll be fine.

  • http://nyill.wordpress.com Enigmatic

    I appreciate that, burnt_chicken.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Such a fun day. I played like shit but got props by extension since Abe played so well.

  • http://slamonline house

    Soooo envious lol, awesome you had a great time, I enjoyed reading this also.

  • http://www.fiba.com Darksaber

    *actively hating your guts*.
    Then again, this mojito i’m sipping at the beach in Thailand right now is not helping me fully comitt to the envy, Squadron Leader. Ahh, bliss.
    (happy for you though, one question, how’s the depth/range perception in those cavernous arena courts? always imagined having to adjust to the space in there when shooting)

  • http://slamonline.com/ Abe Schwadron

    Thanks for the compliments, fellas. @Darksaber I’m glad you brought that up. I’ve always felt that way about playing in any space that’s not your typical high school-ish gym. I’ve gotten to shoot around at a couple college arenas and thought they were huge and impossible to shoot in. Same sorta applied to MSG, although as far as NBA arenas go, it’s one of the more intimate (and they dim the lights, which actually helps), so it wasn’t TOO bad. Though I was still surprised my first shot was on point. I have NO idea how the NBA guys adjust to it so quickly — the example I always wonder about is last year’s All Star Game at the new Dallas football stadium. Must have been a ridiculous adjustment, and yet there they were, raining jumpers. Guess that’s why they’re pros…

  • http://www.fiba.com Darksaber

    Nice feedback, Abe, thanks.
    Played a tournament in the S’pore indoor stadium, ten thousand seats, last year and had to do less adjusting than i thought. I even stepped back on some threes cause i fully extended on my shooting motion (made 2 per game)
    What did feel different was the court lighting, that.was.excellent.
    Most gyms i regularly play in here have wood floors, good rims, space, FIBA markings (the new ones) but lighting was nowhere as bright as in the arena.
    Felt great shooting in there.