USA Basketball and Nike recently announced they're joining forces with Converse and Jordan Brand for the inaugural World Basketball Festival. This truly amazing alignment within the basketball cosmos is set to light up New York City from August 12-15. Set to become a biannual celebration, the WBF will feature the finest hoops action inside the world famous Madison Square Garden and outside on the blacktop, at Harlem's legendary Rucker Park. If that wasn't enough, the Swoosh also let it be known that for first time ever, basketball will be played in the heart of mid-town Manhattan – in Times Square for crying out loud! Brazil, Puerto Rico, France and China as well as the USA, will participate in this showcase as a means to ready their respective squads for the 2010 FIBA World Basketball Championships.
Words + Images: Brad Graham.
Rolling out the 24K-gold carpet, the World Basketball Festival launch was a champagne-popping media-only extravaganza that took place over two days, starting at Manhattan's Pier 59 and concluding on the hallowed grounds of Rucker Park. It was quite an occasion and one which marked the first official joint-billing colab between Nike, Converse and Jordan... a remarkable occurrence in its own right. Everyone from Nice Kicks to Crooked Tongues, as well as basketball authorities like SLAM, Dime and Hoop were in the house, as were mainstreamers CNN, FHM, Sports Illustrated and ESPN. All in all, a total of 150 media outlets from Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Italy, France and China were flown in to document the occasion and Nike didn’t let us down.
Formal proceedings from Day One were kick-started via a wonderful rendition of Alicia Key's chorus from Jay-Z's Empire State Of Mind. TNT broadcaster and NYC legend, Kenny ‘The Jet' Smith fittingly acted as host for the morning panel sessions, opening with an informative discussion that included NBA players Kevin Durant and Yi Jianlian, as well as USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and Nike Brand Manager Charlie Denson.
Plenty of hot sneaker proddy was also showcased during the launch, giving early adopters a sample of the product lines which will dominate collector’s feet and shelves at your local Foot Locker throughout 2010.
Nike's 'United We Rise' space featured team kits for the five nations that have been invited to take part in the World Basketball Festival along with the new footwear. This impressive showcase was the perfect dessert following my finely prepared lunch, with the might of Nike's research and development, as well as their creative prowess, on full display. Multiple colourways of the stylish meshed-out and ultra-lite Zoom Hyperfuse, along with the improved Hyperdunk 2010 and the bonkers Air Force 1 Foamposite became the talking point for many on the guest list.
Also in the house was Jordan Brand, which was lovingly showered in baby blue and white. Dedicated to their ‘For The Love Of The Game' pack, JB was brought to life through the Air Jordan IX Retro, the Air Jordan 2010 Outdoor, the Air Jordan Alpha 1 Outdoor and the Jordan Pre-Game XT models.
Following in JB’s footsteps was the Converse hall, which acted as a tribute to their recent Band Of Ballers action while also offering the latest kicks from their Evo performance line, the oddly named SICKS model and the meshtastic Star Player Evo.
The revolutionary Nike Hyper Elite National Team uniforms were another highlight of the WBF announcement. NBA stars Durant and Jianlian were both on hand to model the technically advanced kits. Serving more as an outer shell than a protective layer, the new Nike uniforms apparently offer improved ventilation, less moisture absorption and an overall reduction in materials, without diminishing garment strength. Trust that these kits feel as good as they look!
Day Two was some other kind of wonderful, with the morning session giving each and every attendee a complete tour of the house that Walt Frazier built, aka Madison Square Garden. The media contingent was then taken from 34th street up to the heart of Manhattan where lunch featured a Times Square view that Bernie Madoff would kill for.
The media scrum then collected a Nike duffle bag full of goodies, generally acted like children on Christmas morning, laced up pairs of 2010 Hyperdunks or Hyperfuses and promptly hopped aboard a bus up to Rucker Park for a series of intense on-court drills, a chat with local legends and couple of quickfire half-court games.
Looking back at the hoopla, it's not surprising that the Festival idea might have started out as a self-described ‘half-baked’ concept between two basketball powers but quickly morphed into one seriously deep-dished apple-pie. Also worth noting, because it coincides with the US summer, these National Team exhibition matches will form the backdrop to Nike's ‘United We Rise' initiative, which aims to serve and improve links between local NYC communities.
Impressive and ambitiously executed, this two day showcase and media launch set a new standard for festival announcements. Just think, if this two day buffet of all things basketball was simply a notice board item, imagine what the event itself will be like? Guess it's time to stand in line out front of your local Foot Locker so you can be dressed to impress when the World Basketball Festival rolls around.
Stay tuned to Sneaker Freaker for more.
PRESS RELEASE. NIKE, INC. AND USA BASKETBALL PLANNING INAUGURAL WORLD BASKETBALL FESTIVAL HOSTED BY NEW YORK CITY
International sport and culture blend over four days in August across Manhattan
BEAVERTON, Ore. (June 9, 2010) - This summer, NIKE, Inc. and USA Basketball are planning to bring the world's best basketball teams and top musical performers to New York City for the inaugural World Basketball Festival, a four-day celebration of the performance and culture of the game, an event that Nike has committed to reprising every two years.
The World Basketball Festival, August 12-15, features basketball's leading brands within the NIKE Inc. portfolio - Converse, the Jordan Brand, and Nike Basketball.
The World Basketball Festival is a uniquely dynamic event, from the moment it tips off with a showcase featuring members of the 2010 USA Basketball National Team on an open-air court in Times Square, to an unprecedented Times Square performance by a surprise musical act, to the final games of the weekend between four of the best teams in the world at Madison Square Garden.
"The World Basketball Festival will be an unforgettable event for the people of New York City and basketball fans around the world," said Charlie Denson, Nike Brand President. "Every two years we plan to connect the global world of basketball to celebrate the sport while leaving a lasting legacy within the community."
From Times Square on August 12, the action moves uptown to New York City's legendary basketball courts at Rucker Park in Harlem, Friday and Saturday, August 13 and 14.
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.
The World Basketball Festival concludes Sunday, August 15 with 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.
The exhibition games are being utilized as part of the teams' preparation for the 2010 FIBA World Basketball Championship in Turkey, August 28 to September 12.
"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," said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball Chairman. "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."
NIKE, Inc. will use the backdrop of the World Basketball Festival to debut the United We Rise initiative as a catalyst to improve communities through basketball. Over the next two years, Nike is partnering 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.
"Piloting programs with these 25 rec centers in New York City will allow Nike and other partners to create a new and sustainable model that we can bring to other communities in years to come," added Denson.
Nike is committed to leaving every court it uses throughout the World Basketball Festival in better shape than what it was at the beginning including dedicating the hardwood courts that will be used in Times Square and Rucker Park to locations where courts are still needed in New York City.
NIKE, Inc. based near Beaverton, Oregon, is the world's leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. A division of NIKE, Inc., Jordan Brand is a premium brand of footwear, apparel and accessories inspired by the dynamic legacy, vision and direct involvement of Michael Jordan. Wholly owned Nike subsidiaries include Converse Inc., which designs, markets and distributes athletic footwear, apparel and accessories; Cole Haan, which designs, markets and distributes luxury shoes, handbags, accessories and coats; Umbro Ltd., a leading United Kingdom-based global football (soccer) brand; and Hurley International LLC, which designs, markets and distributes action sports and youth lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories. For more information, visit www.nikebiz.com.
About USA Basketball
Based in Colorado Springs, Colo., USA Basketball is a nonprofit organization and the national governing body for men's and women's basketball in the United States. As the recognized governing body for basketball in the United States by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA teams that compete in FIBA sponsored international basketball competitions, as well as for some national competitions. For more information about USA Basketball, visit www.usabasketball.com.