This story doesn’t begin on September 15, 2017, in a secret backlot location at Sony Pictures in Culver City, Calif., roughly 20 minutes away from downtown Los Angeles. No, it begins roughly two years prior in New York City, when National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the league had reached a deal for an eight-year partnership with prestigious lifestyle brand Nike to provide official uniforms for the league. Many wondered just what the Swoosh would be creating for the NBA when the deal wasn’t set to be activated until the 2017-2018 season. So when I was invited to attend the world premiere event announcing this season’s on-court uniforms and off-court apparel in Los Angeles, I knew it was an opportunity to see something dope.
When we arrived, I instantly understood just how big this production was. It wasn’t just Sprinter vans that were dropping folks off, but full-fledged tour buses were pulling up. I recognized several folks as we waited for entry: Legendary skateboarder Eric Koston. NBA all-time great and North Philly legend Rasheed Wallace. The singer Kelela. LeBron’s oldest son Bryce. Fellow writers discussed HBCU homecomings, how good (bad?) the Sixers were gonna be this season and the intentional stunting that some of the guests showed with their choice of outfits before we were told to enter a huge building.
We walked by “NIKExNBA” installations as the sounds of a live NBA game roared through well-placed speakers. At first I couldn’t tell what game we were listening to, but the chants of “WAAARRRRRIORRRRS” quickly showed me that we were tuned into the in-game environment of Oracle Arena. The hallway opened into a huge, blacked-out room filled with camera crews, guests, celebs, press, and the occasional team representative. After milling around, the few lights that were on cut out, and we were greeted with a montage created around Nike’s presence in the game of basketball over the years, narrated by the Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant. I felt several waves of nostalgia, as clips of commercials and campaigns of the past that I knew verbatim flashed on the screen. The accompanying 808 drum-laced instrumental captured the moment, with check-rocking bass that let you know something big was coming. And then this happened:
The walls spun and it felt like we had been transported to a Yeezy concert. The video screen split into three separate pillars, revealing a shelved wall that displayed the new “Association” jerseys for all 32 NBA teams. As I tried to avoid sensory overload, players emerged out of the blackness, all wearing what appeared to be NBA-branded Tech Fleece hoodies, which they quickly unzipped to showcase the new “Statement” uniforms.
As the players left the stage and I started plotting on how I was gonna be the first person with that Sixers jersey, the voice of Kobe Bryant returned, announcing a new venture created by Nike and the NBA that would change how fans everywhere would receive information about their favorite teams.
Nike Connect will allow fans to access content surrounding their favorite teams and players by simply tapping their jerseys with their phones. Need to know what channel the Sixers play on tonight? Got it. Want that fire GIF of Joel Embiid dunking on someone? Got that too.
While the crowd was abuzz with just how interactive Nike Connect seemed, we suddenly found ourselves at the “Rodeo.” A stage slid out of nowhere to reveal Travis Scott screaming into the California air, and what once was a hyper-glorified debut event turned into a concert. But as quickly as things started, they ended. The space cleared for interviews, and I found myself one-on-one with a pillar to the future of the Sixers franchise, Ben Simmons. We talked Philly sports, cheesesteaks, and Meek Mill references and before I knew it, I was back on the Sprinter to the hotel.
The next 15+ hours were a blur, including a couple Old Fashioneds, a 7 a.m. workout at USC where I tested the brand new LeBron 15s, and a history class on the Air Force Ones, which included several things that can’t be discussed at press time (Editor’s note: seems like some cats were let out the bag). It ended with watching USC beat Texas on the flight back to New York.
I know two things for sure: Nike and the NBA’s plans for this upcoming season mean the future is definitely bright. And I need to spend more than 24 hours in Los Angeles the next time I visit.
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