From last Friday through Tuesday, Washington D.C. became temporary residence of the 2012 World Basketball Festival with featured guests Team USA Men's and Women's basketball, the host Nike and media from around the globe - yours truly included. As expected, the experience held unique highlights and "you had to be there" moments that can't be conveyed in words, pictures or even video. However, there were many other happenings that could be captured and I've included 10 of them in a recap of how five days of the best in hoops, footwear, music and more all went down.
Additional images courtesy of Nike
1. Converse's Block Party
Easily one of the hottest - in both temperature and billing - was the free block party Converse put on for the D.C. community. The event featured performances by Stalley, Tanya Morgan, tabi Bonney, The-Dream and Fresh Daily and also included free custom Converse tees being made on the spot, food trucks pedaling goodies and basketball courts being put to use all at one time.
2. Hoops In The Hood
Detractors can be critical of Nike for a wide range of reasons, but the company gives back in small, perhaps unpublicized ways. Prime example: the refurbishing of the courts in D.C.'s Barry Farms. As previously stated, the court was dead-center in the middle of the hood, tenement buildings less than 15 yards away from the entrance gates.
Still, there was a level of respect given for the space and people who call those courts home. On-court trash-talking went down right alongside barbs tossed in from the regulars gathered in the crowd, but nothing more than playing the dozens instead of cold-hearted intentions. With minimal security present, there were still zero disruptions to contend with. KD and Harden came and went freely (well, minus a bodyguard or two that really didn't seem necessary). Coach John Thompson walked the playground perimeter and exited with everyone knowing damn well who he was, but with enough respect to just clear the path as if he was any old grandfather and not a legendary Big East hoops coach.
3. D.C. Is Beautiful
Our nation's capital is filled with history, buildings and homes that will make you marvel and the people were kind to a man. I can't wait to experience it again.
4. Jordan Brand's "Rise Above" Presentation
Do you see me? I'm like Mike and it was thanks to Jordan Brand's ill installation that included a photobooth using the infamous playground photo as its backdrop. Below, do you see the older lady prepping to do her photo too? Needless to say the Jumpman setup was a hot spot no matter age, race or creed. The presentation also included product displays and t-shirt giveaways. Seeing it all and watching kids (and adults) smiling reminded me how we all fell in love with sports, sneakers and the lifestyle as a whole.
5. The Product Displays & Interactive Experience
I always joke and refer to Nike as the world's best snake charmers for the way they can make almost anything seem urgent, as if it must be bought no matter the costs because whatever it is - footwear, a jersey, whatever - is completely relevant to your sport and lifestyle. The ability to create tie-ins and stories are what put them head and shoulders above other brands and keeps customer loyalty so strong. This kid dunking below? Yeah, he's probably going to be me in 20 years.
6. The "Hoops For Troops" Event
The exhibition and clinic put on by the men's and women's teams for the troops and their family had tons of highlights. Leading things off were the ladies, who lead approximately 50 daughters of troops in various skills drills, followed by the men's team practicing for around two hours for the entertainment of everybody in attendance. The whole time, we were sitting on the floor and allowed to take it all in from the closest of perspectives. Literally, I could've pulled a middle school prank like de-pantsing Chris Paul (even though I would've gotten crushed by security right after).
I'll try and sum it up in one concise exchange: imagine ultra-superstar Kobe Bryant taking more time than required to sign autographs, hug fans, kiss babies and, at one point, snap photos with two wheelchair-bound troops. It's one thing to hear about guys being good to their fans but it's different to see Kobe spread his arms like Moses and ask a crowd of gawkers to move back just so the two soldiers and one of their female counterparts could get a good snapshot. Say what you will about the guy but Kobe's clearly moved on from petulant young star to a wise vet who understands the significance of the game and what he means to it and the fans.
7. Watching Team USA Practice
Let me restate this point: We got to friggin' watch Team USA practice. No, it wasn't the equivalent of being invited to a closed off facility to watch The Dream Team do intersquad battle in '92 but where else on earth would a basketball fan be allowed to watch a dozen of the world's best players running through layup line and scrimmaging?
The clip below shows absolutely nothing and everything all at once. I say nothing because nothing major takes place. Mainly, it should convey that these guys are very fast, even when playing at half-speed.
8. The Regional Nike+ Basketball Dunk Showcase
Justin “Jus Fly” Darlington is the truth, as seen in the previous video clip we posted. Two quirky tidbits that he shared with us after winning the NIKE+ Basketball Dunk Showcase. One, he claims that he doesn't necessarily practice a routine or any dunks for that matter, choosing instead to go with the flow after watching what his challengers do. Two, he listens to R&B - he specifically cited Keith Sweat - to get mentally charged for competition, which seemed sort of odd for a guy who's only 24 and was in middle school well after the R&B crooner was in his prime. Whatever the routine is it's clearly working for him.
9. Wear-Testing The New Hyperdunks
Before the Festival, word leaked out that we, a small group of invited media, would be wear-testing the new Hyperdunk Sports Pack and the Nike+ Basketball app. That meant I had about three to four days to crank my daily exercise routine up a notch. Needless to say, cramming for physical activity isn't the same as cramming for a test in college. I'll detail more about the sneakers, the app and what all went down later. But, for now, know that most people sitting behind keyboards bringing updates on the latest footwear technology aren't the best hoopers. That's mostly the reason why we write about it all instead. But, the whole technology is crazy. It's tracking everything - your vert, quickness, endurance, etc. - all while tracking your data for personal use or for sharing with friends.
10. Watching The Men's and Women's Basketball Teams Bounce Brazil
And the President and First Lady were in the building.