Earlier this January one of the UK’s most iconic arena’s rolled out the red-carpet for the star’s of the NBA. Basketballs rapidly growing European fan-base has resulted in teams making the transatlantic journey more frequently than ever, so when Foot Locker invited me to come along to the game as their guest I greatfully obliged!
Foot Locker is synonymous with Sneakers and Basketball. In the UK especially, if you need basketball gear then few can cater to your needs quite like the guys in the black and white striped uniforms – so it was to no surprise that Foot Locker would play a big role whilst the NBA was in town. They flew in a group of influential journalists from all across Europe to partake in a media day like no other. The day began when we arrived at the O2 for a presentation on Foot Lockers Approved Heat range which kicks off next month. During February a fresh pair of sneakers will be released every day and some fellow journalists and I were lucky enough to sample the range a couple of weeks early!
Foot Locker’s resident sneaker heads Steve Bryden and Chinks talked passionately about each sneaker giving an in-depth insight into each pair from how they are made too the sneakers history. After the presentation we were whisked into a locker room where basketball jerseys bearing our names were hung up along with everything else we needed to hit the court; Jordan shorts, Puma socks, towels and best of all we got to pick a pair of the forthcoming approved heat range to test out on the O2 court, hours before the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks would lock horns there in a regular season NBA game!
I chose a striking pair of orange Nike Hyper Rev’s. As well as looking amazing I tactically hoped the head-turning sneakers would take some attention away from my inevitable lousy jump shot (although the resident photographer and camera men ensured this went noticed!) Now we all looked like Lebron James, it was time to see if we could play like him! We were led onto the court to be met by professional NBA coach Neil Meyer. Neil has coached some of the worlds best players including Scottie Pippen, Lebron James and most recently Jack David (OK I know, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have my name in the same sentence as the afore mentioned NBA legends!) Joining Neil Meyer was Steve Smith, an NBA All-Star and former player for the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks too name a few as well as British Basketball star John Amaechi who has played for Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers. Sharing the court with these guys was a money cant buy experience and I feel extremely lucky (despite my lack of Basketball skill) to have had the opportunity to do so. We played numerous basketball games and all had a great time before sitting down with Steve Smith for a Q&A session.
Steve was a great sport and spoke vividly about his time in the NBA including how Michael Jordan was his toughest opponent because of referees tendencies to favour him during foul calls! After this we had a photo opportunity with the famous Larry O’Brien Championship trophy. Following a quick dash back to the hotel for a freshen up we were back to the O2 for the main event; the Brooklyn Nets v the Atlanta Hawks! Foot Locker had arranged pre and post game VIP hospitality where we hung out and enjoyed a drink and a bite to eat before going court side for the action! I found myself amidst Premier League football stars – David Luiz, Eden Hazard, Demba Ba and Christian Benteke who joined an abundance of celebrity guests including Paul McCartney at the O2 for an event that clearly everyone wanted to be at!
Despite being a one sided affair for all 4 quarters the Nets and Haws put on an entertaining show of which Joe Johnson was the undoubted star. The Nets forward lit up the O2 with a game-high 29 points in a comprehensive 127-110 victory. Talking post game of his exploits Johnson said ”We just exploited mismatches. I was just feeding off these guys. We had a lot of ball movement and took a lot of open shots.” Another notable moment was when Atlanta guard Kyle Korver extended his record of 108 consecutive games in which he had scored a 3 pointer.
When the clock begin to count down the final 10 seconds of the game the O2’s appreciative crowd rose to it’s feet to give both teams a standing ovation. The NBA continues to grow in Europe and we look forward to welcoming two more teams to the UK in the near future!
A big thanks to Foot Locker for allowing Flavour Magazine to be part of this great event and stay tuned during February as we bring you more #ApprovedHeat!