Brought To An Abandoned Warehouse, Left To Ball

It all started with a text message from a random number about two weeks ago. The message I received went something along the lines of, “Jack, this is Nike. There’s a 2-on-2 tournament during All-Star weekend. Winner gets $2,000. Do you want in?”

Of course I want in. What kind of a basketball-writing hack would I be if I didn’t want in – plus the rent in L.A. never comes easy, so I could use the extra coin. But that’s beside the point; I have and always will be down for any opportunity to hoop. Always. So I said yes, emphatically – like the kind of reply text that wears out your character limit with exclamation points and winking smiley faces – and I was in the Nike system.

Since I received my first anonymous text a few weeks back, I’ve been contacted more than a few times by the Nike team (hovering around 20 or so estimated by my count). And they’ve all operated under a veil of near-complete anonymity. Every time I get a call or a text explaining a new step I have to complete, I am given the information and that’s it. There are no questions asked, no friendly chats and no shooting the bull over the last Blake Griffin dunk – it’s all business and then click. They hang up. Every. Damn. Time.

So, up until this past Monday, that’s what I’ve been working with. All I know is that I’m entered in a 2-on-2 tournament that will take place somewhere in Los Angeles on Feb. 19. I have a partner in crime, an old high school teammate and buddy, and a team name, “Birdman’s Tattoo Advisors,” to be specific. (We’re both from the Denver metro area and are great admirers of the Bird’s glorious works of art.) But that’s all I knew, until Monday that is, when I got a series of calls making sure I was going to be at my work to receive a “special package.” Cool, I like getting mail at work, makes me feel important. The package, or envelope, that arrived, contained a Nike-branded letter inside assigning me my first task.

On the front of the letter, it read, “Los Fearless Are The Chosen Elite.” And on the back, it gave an address and two simple directions:

That’s it. Please, do yourself a favor and Google Map this address and tell me if that’s the kind of place you’d like to kick it at on a random Wednesday night. But fine, you know Birdman’s Tattoo Advisors are always game for anything.

We pull up to the street about 8:45pm Wednesday night and it is pitch black outside. And for those who don’t Google Map the address, it looks like an old warehouse and shipping yard factory in the heart of Los Angeles. No, actually it looks more like a place where warehouses go to die. It’s the warehouses that have been abandoned by all owners and hope of repair.

The street we pull into is under a street overpass and leads us into a pit of cement nothingness. As we pass a few stray cats and discarded sleeping bags down the street ramp, a huge fellow in all black tells us to park under the pass.

At this point, we don’t know what to expect, but now there are a heavy amount of other equally confused guys standing around with us. I get out of my car and they sort of file all of us up against this steel-grated warehouse and tell me to pull out my ID card. There are 127 “Chosen Elite” standing around me, not counting myself. I am asked if I am event staff maybe five times. I have the feeling I will get this question a lot more as the Los Fearless experience continues.

Then, the line starts to flow into said abandoned warehouse through a four-foot metal hobbit door into a room straight out of Saw. They hand me a metal dog tag, cross my name off a highlighted list and send me through. There are boxes and sheets of used plywood and plastic shipping crates strewn all over the building, with one semi-circle opening cleared out for us all to congregate. On the wall in front of us is a forty-foot projection screen displaying the “Los Fearless” tournament logo twitching back and forth.

We still have no clue what’s going on. No one does, not even the security detail, or so they claim.

Then the screen flickers on and there is a giant hooded figure in front of us. It’s Kobe; it’s got to be. Everyone in the audience shouts it out, but we can’t see his face. I think it’s Kobe, the guy next to me who thinks I’m working the event thinks it’s Kobe, so for all intents and purposes, we’re saying it’s the Black Mamba.

But then comes a voiceover that I can only describe as Batman meeting Mars Blackmon. He’s raspy, deep and telling us why we’re all here. That we players are the Chosen Elite to compete in the Los Fearless Tournament and that our dog tags are our lifeblood. When we lose on the court, we lose our dog tags. And the last duo standing will walk away with the cake for two-grand. Pretty dope. But that’s it. The magic voice tells us our next instructions await us at the door, and we’re off into the night. Here’s what our next instruction says:

So that’s where I’m at as of today. My next experience apparently awaits me on Tuesday. Get ready to take this journey with me Dime crew. If anything, it’s going to be a fun ride.

Follow my journey through Los Fearless on Twitter at @jensenjack.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.