Flight Forum

by October 10, 2011


by Tzvi Twersky | @ttwersky

It’s a rainy Tuesday in Portland, OR, but the typically wet northwestern weather hasn’t dampened mine or the rest of the assembled media’s spirits much. Besides, since we’re only outside for the 15 seconds that it takes to stroll from our shuttle bus to the Tiger Woods Center on Nike’s campus, so we barely get dusted with drops.

The Tiger Woods Center isn’t special in and of itself—an otherwise airy and average lobby is decorated with a plethora of Tiger paraphernalia—but there’s a certain electric buzz reverberating around our group, bouncing from person to person, camera click to camera click. It’s always exciting to spend time on Nike’s beautiful and sprawling campus. It’s even more exciting when you’re there to take part in Jordan Brand’s highly anticipated Flight Forum.

Led by a slew of highly professional PR people, we make our way from the ante room down a short flight of stairs, turn down a hallway and stop in front of tablecloth-covered tables and an imposing set of closed double doors.  At this point, someone from Jordan Brand welcomes us and asks for our attention. He tells us to pick up a flash drive off the table and to divide into three smaller groups. We’re about to open the closed doors and enter the inner sanctum of the Flight Forum. He asks us if we’re ready.

The door opens into a dark corridor that’s lit only by flickering projections on one of the walls. Video of Carmelo Anthony bullying forwards, Chris Paul crossing guards and Dwyane Wade Eurostepping forwards, guards and centers provide all the light in the otherwise blackened room.

As the video plays in a continuous—and mesmerizing—loop, someone from Jordan Brand begins talking about the Brand’s upcoming holiday sneaker releases. He starts off by telling us that this season’s campaign will focus around the slogan, Fly Around, Fly Over, Fly Through. He explains that Michael Jordan changed—or, to an extent, introduced—flight to the game of basketball. He also says that Anthony, Paul and Wade each specialize in one of the aforementioned types of flight.

To prove that Michael Jordan mastered flight—as if he needs to do that—the Brand employee fires up a never-before-seen MJ montage. With Lenny Kravitz’s hit of yesteryear “Fly Away” providing the only sound, some of Jordan’s more- and less-famous plays dance across the wall. There he is flying around Rex Chapman. There he is flying over Patrick Ewing. There he is flying through Bob Sura. As the highlight reel comes to an end, everyone seems to exhale. Unconsciously, we all had been holding our breath; Jordan can have that kind of effect

As the screen resumes playing clips of Anthony/Paul/Wade, we’re ushered down the corridor, until it gently opens into a cavernous room.  Normally an empty, unused space, the room is devoid of decoration and color. In fact, the only light in the otherwise liquid black space emanates from three separate silos containing…kicks. It looks like Jordan Brand is about to debut some new shoes to participants of the Flight Forum.

As it turns out, each silo represents one of the three ways of flight (over, around, through). The first silo we’re shown is the one furthest to the left. The outer-entrance boasts a life-sized picture of Chris Paul that reads FLY AROUND. Around the perimeter stand varying colorways of two new sneakers: Chris Paul’s signature, CP3.V, and the CP 2’Quick. Andre Doxey, a creative director at Jordan Brand, stands in the middle of it all, ready to talk us through it all.

In the midst of a really riveting—no, really—presentation about the CP3.V and 2’Quick’s specs, Doxey points out a few rather interesting things: (a) after studying how Chris Paul uses his big toe to push off on his first step, the .V contains strategically placed Podulun technology that maximizes the energy gained from his push; (b) To help with pivots and cuts—moves that are rooted in your midfoot—the 2’Quick features a raised traction pattern in the middle of the outsole.

By the time Doxey was through, I was sold on both pairs of Fly Around Jordans.

Next we head to the Fly Through silo. A large image of Carmelo Anthony and the text FLY THROUGH greets us. Inside are a few gleaming pairs of Anthony’s new signature Melo M8s. Alongside it sit pairs of the Big Ups and Air Jordan 2011 A Flights. This silo is obviously an ode to the power game. As we peruse the different colorways—New Yorkers are going to love the M8’s orange-and-blue colors—a shaved-headed Justin Taylor emerges out of the shadows. As the lead designer of the M8, Taylor is intimately familiar with Melo’s new signature, and he drops some insights on us. The use of Flywire on the upper and exposed Zoom and Max Air units in the forefoot and heel are some of the focal points of his presentation.

Dwyane Wade greets us at the third and final silo. Well, actually, a poster of Wade with the words FLY OVER. Mark Smith, the legendary designer responsible for last season’s Jordan Fly Wade, tells us to step in. He wants to show us the Fly Wade 2s and the Fly 23s. Built to support Wade’s unique movements, the Fly Wade 2 boasts a Hyperfuse upper and full-length Lunarlon midsole. Additionally, unlike the Wade 1, the tongue flaunts Wade’s new Jordan logo. Though it is designed to look like the letter W, the logo doubles as an M (for the Miami Heat), an E (for the East Coast) and a 3 (for Wade’s number).

When Smith finishes, we wander around, studying the different silos and shoes. After a hefty helping of toying around with the kicks, myself and the rest of the members of the Flight Forum head to lunch. We’re tired but very energized by what we’ve seen from Jordan.