The first mistake I made was not eating anything beforehand. I’m what you could charitably call a sporadic exerciser, and I didn’t really know what was in store when Nike asked me to participate in a few media workouts leading up to the Chi-League Classic, an annual amateur basketball event at Whitney Young High School in Chicago. I make a living writing about basketball, but the last time I played competitively was in fifth grade, which just so happens to be the last year that anybody who wants to play can get on a team without tryouts.
Within 15 minutes of the first workout — an agility drill with cones — I knew that I couldn’t have been less well-prepared. I became the guy in the group who had to sit out part of the workout to take a breather while a staffer brought me a banana and a bottle of water. After a few minutes, I was able to continue and finish the hour-long workout session, but it drove home the fact that I’m in terrible shape.
Which is great, especially when the workouts culminate in an actual basketball game, to be played in front of people. Like, a full gym of basketball fans who have been watching high-school players with D-1 futures. Our game was called the “Media Influencer Game,” and it featured 20-minute halves and a running clock, unlike the more serious games with more serious players that came immediately before and after. But I was playing with people who, by and large, at the very least played in pickup games regularly. I knew it wasn’t going to end well.
But at least I looked good. Nike gave all of us fully customized uniforms, compression shorts and — most crucially — a pair of their brand-new Hyperdunk Knits. I’m what can best be described as a casual sneakerhead: I don’t wait in line on release days, but I own a handful of pairs of Jordans (mostly 1s) and have opinions about which shoes I think look cool, just like everyone else on the internet. The Hyperdunks were the most comfortable shoes I’d ever worn.
“The idea behind the Hyperdunk Knit was to create a seamless sensation around the foot,” says Leo Chang, Nike’s head designer of basketball footwear. “Creating a supportive sock, then with a very minimal supportive sock. That was the original inspiration, getting that as close-to-foot feel as you can. And doing a lot of stuff with a little bit more ankle-tropia suction with that sleeve. We’ve been doing that for a while. I thought it was a great opportunity to utilize it that way.”