Photo via Nike
The 2014 edition of the Jordan Brand Classic did not have huge names like last year (Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, et al.), but the new crop of big-time college recruits nevertheless put on a quite a show. Guys like Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Tyus Jones lit up the court with alley oops, deep 3-pointers and nifty handles.
The JBC has become more than a game. The event at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is a spectacle. Celebs dotted the courtside seats, Macklemore performed following the game, and Air Jordan apparel was everywhere. Here are eight observations, both on the court and off, from the 2014 installment of the Jordan Brand Classic.
RELATED: What We Learned From Last Year’s Jordan Brand Classic
Jahlil Okafor Is a Man Among Boys
Duke fans should be ecstatic. After spending a year watching potential top-five NBA Draft pick Jabari Parker light up Cameron Indoor, the Blue Devils have another prospect who could be even better. The 7-foot Jahlil Okafor scored eight points in the first four minutes en route to a 29-point, nine-rebound performance, and he looked like he was playing against a pack of middle schoolers. He’s smooth around the hoop (his footwork is a pleasure to watch), he can run the floor and he’s more athletic than you might think from looking at him. Parker was great, but Okafor’s time in Durham could be truly special.
RELATED: Our Interview With Jahlil Okafor
The Big Man Is Back
Photo via Nike
The co-MVPs of the 2014 Jordan Brand Classic were Okafor and Kansas recruit Cliff Alexander, who picked up 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Much like Okafor, Alexander was all over the court—hitting 3s, banging down in the post and getting up for an alley-oop. He’s listed at 6-foot-9, but on court, he looks just a shade smaller than the 7-foot Okafor. Either way, in a game that has de-emphasized the big man, the two largest players on the court at the JBC also happened to be the best.
Everyone Can Jump. Everyone.
Photo via Nike
At STACK, we know it will not come as a shock that basketball players are talented in the art of the vertical leap. But everyone at the Jordan Brand Classic seemed able to jump out of the building. Big men, little men and especially Emmanuel Mudiay, who sent the Barclays Center crowd into a frenzy when he threw down one of the best alley-oops we’ve seen in a long time. Is there anyone with average hops anymore? Or are all children destined to play basketball born with a 40-inch vertical? What about us normal folks, who would just like to jump high enough to save a cat from a high branch or grab a hard-to-reach item off a high grocery shelf? Whatever.
Joel Embiid Should Definitely Not Wear a Fedora
Joel Embiid, a former Kansas Jayhawk and projected top-five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, sat courtside at the JBC, but you could see him from the rafters because of his interesting choice of headwear. Atop Embiid’s melon sat a sparkling fedora, not a common fashion choice for a kid under 20 (and for good reason.) Embiid looked like a very poor man’s version of Pharrell. Let’s leave the fedoras to Jonah Hill and old timey jazz arists, Joel. You’ve got your 30s and 40s to look unfashionable.
Kentucky and Duke Reload—Again
Photo: House Divided Flags
Fresh off an appearance in the NCAA championship game, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats are ready to stock up again. A team that will lose James Young and, most likely, Julius Randle and Aaron and Andrew Harrison will replace them with four guys from the Jordan Brand Classic. Trey Lyles (No. 6 in ESPN’s top 100 recruits), Karl Towns, Jr. (No. 9), Devin Booker (No. 18), and Tyler Ulis (No. 25) will all don Wildcat unis in the fall. Things will be no different at Duke, where aside from Okafor, the Blue Devils will also reel in Tyus Jones (No. 4), Justise Winslow (No. 15) and Grayson Allen (No. 21). Nothing new here; just two basketball powerhouses continuing to be, you know, powerhouses.
Don’t Overlook Tyus Jones
Photo: Duke 24/7 Sports. Tyus Jones is on the far left
Okafor will get all the hype, but Duke’s future point guard could be just as spectacular. Tyus Jones put on a show, dropping a double-double (and coming close to a triple-double) to the tune of 11 points and 10 rebounds. On one particular play, Jones threw a fantastic no-look bounce pass down the middle of the lane during a fast break, which must have left Duke fans salivating over how much he will help Okafor’s game. Watch out for this combo next season.
Hip-Hop Violin Is Awesome. This Is Not Debatable
In addition to guys like Joe Johnson, Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin, the Jordan Brand also sponsors a violinist. Yes, a violinist. His name is Lee England Jr., and he is all sorts of awesome. He performed at halftime, covering Drake’s ”Trophies” and ”Hold On, We’re Going Home,” as well as Beyonce’s ”Drunk in Love,” alongside an acoustic guitarist. There’s something about smooth sounding strings that improves the quality of a song, and England had the crowd oohing and ahhing once they picked up on what he was playing. More violins in hip-hop music, please.
You Must Step Up Your Shoe Game
If you come to a Jordan Brand event, make sure you’re not sporting a pair of your dad’s kicks. Just check out the photo above, taken from the Instagram account of Jaques Slade. ”Cavs” Jordan IVs. ”Oregon” Jordan Vs. Brand new ”Jordan Brand Classic” Jordan Futures. That’s enough heat in one room to melt the ice caps. You might think your kicks game was pretty strong until you strolled into the Barclays Center on Friday night. Not anymore.