Larger than life banners displaying prospective members of Team USA basketball, frozen in time in the midst of signature moves. Mannequins wearing uniforms with various country names emblazoned across the chest. Basketballs strewn across the floor, bearing slogans such as “celebrating local heroes” and “embracing a better game.” And tables of bold, brightly-colored sneakers.
Sneakers strategically positioned on metal tables, hoisted on wall displays and beckoning curious eyes to touch them. Several rooms dedicated to showcasing Nike’s latest offerings in style and footwear technology. While there was tons of information shared and plenty of people on hand to disseminate it, the sneakers were the main draw for me at Nike’s World Basketball Festival media event. The whole Festival introduction experience was astonishing, but being a part of the unveiling of select models of kicks had to be the most striking.
By and large, the new Zoom Hyperfuse was the focal point. Rondo’s been wearing a vibrant green model in recent playoff games and they’ve caused a curious buzz from diehards and casual fans. Said to be lighter than the Hyperdunk, the sneakers incorporate Nike’s latest technological advancement, Hyperfuse. The material is inspired by Nike’s design team witnessing Chinese kids playing ball in everything except basketball shoes – including sandals – simply because they wanted durable footwear that was also breathable and flexible. Instead of cut-and-sewn layers, Hyperfuse works with fused layers –a stability layer, a breathable mesh layer, and a durable outer skin layer — creating an almost one-piece design and thus taking away even more ounces and creating featherweight kicks (approx. 12.5 ounces) for the court.
Members of Nike’s Innovation Kitchen broke down the design, explaining it in detail and then allowing us to check them out. Expect colors. Oodles of colors. And watch for country-specific pairs for Brazil, France, and a USA-inspired colorway (of which Durant was sporting a personalized pair) to correlate with the the upcoming World Basketball Championship and the Olympics shortly thereafter. Nets forward Yi Jianlian rocked a special Hyperdunk ’10 mockup, highlighted by the Chinese national team’s colors.
The baddest colorway? Arguably a tough choice and it all depends on personal preferences. But I’d have to give the nod to the deep purple pictured above and another pair with an almost iridescent look to the ankle. An already sleek shoe highlighted by florid colors, almost an instant cop when they hit store shelves.
I was drawn to the Hyperdunk 2010 table as well because I’ve always been a fan of the shoe since the original release, having owned the original colorway as well as two others. On the event’s second day, we were given duffle bags complete with new Hyper Elite shorts, socks, tees and each received a pair of sneakers to hoop in during 5-on-5 half court games. The sneakers were pretty evenly split with half of us receiving Hyperfuses, the other half Hyperdunk 2010s. Remembering my delight with the 2008 model, I decided to ask for a switch to the Hyperdunk ’10s. Good and bad choice.
As expected, the shoes were responsive and light, allowing for cuts and quick start-stop maneuvers. The HD2010 were tight at first, but broke in faster than any shoes that I’ve ever worn. Adequate room in the toebox, leaving enough space for comfort but not so much where there was foot slippage. Similar to the OG Hyperdunks, there’s an inner-fit sleeve that kept my foot snug. Actually, I think the shoes may have been the reason I never stumbled, nearly negating genetics and clumsiness. That’s the good.
The bad was I was so enthusiastic about being a part of the event that I did participate in the organized pickup games instead of just sticking to the controlled, less aggressive skills exhibition (word to Marcus Troy, chillin on the sideline, rocking shades and keepin’ his kicks crispy). The result?
The nastiest set of scuffs. Ugh. Yeah, I play hard and play to win and, apparently, so does every other media member that was there. I think the scuffing occurred as I made a slashing drive to the hole and homegirl from Urban Latino tried to stop me. Tried. Doesn’t really matter because now I have a pair of kicks dedicated to physical activity. Hindsight makes me wish that I had stuck with the original Hyperfuses I was given because they had a design that made an easier transition from the court to streetwear…and the scuff would be covered by pair of jeans draping over the shoes. That and the fact that I should have chilled on the sidelines anyways. It didn’t bode well from the outset, considering I’m a chain-smoker and was winded early, plus I haven’t played basketball in almost a decade. Dah well.
I couldn’t get a lot of pictures in because I was trying to warm-up, but here’s a handful with a few of the other participants.
The Band Of Non-Ballers
The French kid aka “I have cool glasses,” who can actually ball…and did ball while wearing those shades. Far right, Marcus Troy.
Homeboy from Hypebeast (“Go Hard” t-shirt), Gary from Crooked Tongues (white), one of my teammates (yellow)…and another guy with bad shooting form. Might I add that Gary is funny as shit and quite a hooligan.
Regarding the actual ballplaying, well, the assembled journalists, bloggers and photogs proved that we’re good at some things and better off leaving others alone. In fact, I think the whole idea was a cruel joke played on us by Nike’s media relations. They did a superb job providing safe passage, catering to and feeding us, as well as corralling us around the city. Therefore, they had to find our playing to be a bit of comedic justice, allowing them the last laugh at our expense. We took the court at the hallowed Rucker Park in Harlem (which will also be one of the festival sites, but more on that later) and a motley band of ballers we were. Legendary EBC Rucker Park ringmaster/annoucer Boobie Smooth provided the play-by-play, blessing/cursing several of us with nicknames – “‘I have really beautiful hair’ with the jumper,” “‘I have cool glasses’ with the hard foul” and mine was “I play better with my hat on.” I’m sure footage will surface soon enough…but I’ll be filing a YouTube cease-and-desist for defamation of my good name and image LOL.