When you do anything in New York City, especially during NBA All-Star Weekend, you’ve got to do it big. So when the Jordan Brand installed an LED basketball court that lets you re-enact famous Michael Jordan shots, the term “go big or go home” took on an entirely new meaning.
Even though the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls were playing a regular-season game that night, Thursday was the unofficial beginning of the 2015 All-Star Game festivities. The day belonged to Air Jordan, and it began with a preview of some upcoming kicks in the basement of Flight 23, a Jordan-themed offshoot of Footaction.
The Air Jordan XX9 “Photo Reel”
There were kicks we’ve seen before, like the “Pearl” and “Laser” Collection, and then there was the Air Jordan XX9 “Photo Reel,” one of the craziest shoes I’ve ever seen in person. It features the Chicago skyline against an orange and blue sunset on one side, and Michael Jordan’s famous “Jumpman” photo (which inspired the brand’s logo) on the other. This shoe seems like something you’d put in a glass case and display in your trophy room rather than actually wear on your feet.
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Tinker Hatfield and Howard White chat about Air Jordan.
From there, the brand hosted select media at Pearl Pavilion, a space across from Madison Square Garden, where Tinker Hatfield, the godfather of Air Jordan design, and Jordan Brand vice president Howard White shared MJ stories—like how, after landing in Hawaii at 4:00 a.m. after playing basketball in Japan, Jordan hopped on a bike and rode over 30 miles, because, of course he did. A tour of the space followed, with a time capsule-esque hallway featuring authentic Jordan gear representing stages of his career and vintage images of the former Chicago Bull.
Jordan Brand’s LED basketball court
But that was all just a lead-up to the LED court, which was so technologically advanced it could have been a secret government project in development for years in some lab. We were given the choice of three scenarios: Jordan’s game-winning jumper as a North Carolina Tar Heel, which gave them the championship in 1982; His Airness’s famous “Last Shot” over Byron Russell of the Utah Jazz in 1998 to win his sixth NBA championship; and “next shot,” where you tried to score against a defender guarding you.
I chose the “Last Shot” option so I could show off my shaky dribbling skills and perform Jordan’s step-back crossover. As I strode onto the floor, everything lit up. The three white walls surrounding the court transformed into imagery of the crowd in Salt Lake City that night, dressed in white, waving towels and screaming at the top of their lungs. A turquoise-colored path lit up on the floor in front of me, guiding me to the exact spot where MJ hit his crossover before pulling up for the J. I followed it, executed the crossover and . . . bricked the jumper. The crowd went nuts before the walls suddenly transformed back to white, like nothing had ever happened.
It was incredible. In 10 years, this technology will be available to people and no one will ever go outside again. And we’ll all be OK with that.
“Go big or go home.” You can’t go much bigger than becoming Michael Jordan for 15 seconds.