This year’s NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles was incredible, even without watching any of the competitions or games in person. And if you’re a sneaker addict, the annual basketball showcase should be on your calendar every year.
I flew across the country from New York last week to check out the action, but had no plans on heading to the Staples Center to watch Friday’s Celebrity or Rising Stars games, the All-Star Saturday Night events or the All-Star Game on Sunday. Instead, I went to experience what athletic market leaders had planned for the fans throughout the city.
Despite 12 total hours of flying in a middle seat to and from N.Y., struggling to find a hotel within 30 minutes of downtown L.A. where everything was happening and spending a small fortune on Ubers to get around, the trip was totally worth it.
Each year, the weekend serves as a catalyst to release some of the year’s most coveted sneakers, and 2018 was no different. Arguably the most talked about release of the weekend were the different Undefeated x Nike Kobe 1 Protro colorways, but the three Bape x Adidas Dame 4 looks were also in high demand. And if you really wanted the sneakers, there are ways to get them, but your best shot at buying them for retail price was to be in Los Angeles.
But must-have sneaker drops alone didn’t make the weekend exciting.
The biggest brands in the marketplace today hosted star-studded events, such as Nike’s “Makers of the Game” series that included appearances from the likes of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, as well as a performance and discussion with rap superstar Kendrick Lamar, among many others.
And Adidas also put together a memorable experience with 747 Warehouse Street, which was created to celebrate the sport and its broader culture. And the athletic giant also brought out its share of stars, including musicians-turned-designers Kanye West and Pharrell Williams (who performed with his group N.E.R.D.). The massive space was the home to a Williams-designed court, reminiscent of a NMD silhouette, and a warehouse showcasing the brand’s many banners and shoe franchises (Y-3, Originals, Harden Vol. 2, EQT, Parley, and more).
Customization was also an underlying theme throughout many of the brand events. While mostly invite-only, getting access to these activations (Nike and Makers H.Q., Adidas and Brooklyn Creators Farm an Jordan Brand’s Studio 23) allowed sneaker addicts to build, customize or create styles from scratch.
Retailers were also banking on the buzz of All-Star Weekend to further drive excitement.
West Coast boutique staple Bait hosted a pop-up shop near the Staples Center, a space that delivered guest appearances from rap star YG and basketball icon Allen Iverson. It also was the home to several Reebok collaborations, including a Bruce Lee-inspired Kamikaze 2 and a new iteration of Iverson’s debut signature sneaker, the Question Mid.
And Kith’s leader Ronnie Fieg also made noise by bringing out today’s best pro baller, LeBron James, on Saturday to help open his new Los Angeles storefront.
Athletic brands aren’t replying only on sneaker releases to generate excitement in the market any longer, it’s now about creating compelling experiences to appease consumers, and NBA All-Star Weekend is the ideal platform to deliver something memorable.
If any of these experiences sound like something you’d be interested in doing next year, mark your calendars: the 2019 NBA All-Star Game is scheduled for Feb. 17 and will take place at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.
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