Enriched with culture and history, Chicago is one of the most influential cities in America. Known more than just inventing the deep dish pizza, Twinkie, or being the birthplace of Playboy and the president, the city is diverse, intriguing, and dangerous. Plagued with one of the worst crime rates in the country, there is one unifying factor for the residents: Sports. Chicagoans are diehard and loyal to their Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, Bulls, and White Sox (okay, maybe not so much). Through the championship era of the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan, basketball has been a backbone to the city providing positivity and hope.
A couple weeks ago I was able to visit this storied city for the first time and invited to the Nike World Basketball Festival. For years, Nike has worked with the City of Chicago to restore parks and basketball playgrounds to provide increased access to the sport, so it’s only fitting the that the Windy City play host for the third World Basketball Festival (WBF).
The week long event invited the community to celebrate basketball with multiple games, seminars, concerts, and more. During the Tournament of Champions that invited four summer city all-star teams to face-off, Nike debuted the Hyperdunk City Pack, which represented each participating city. The games were fast-paced and exciting, organized streetball in style, and very fun to watch.
The Finals saw Washington D.C. face the hometown Chicago team. To kick-off the game, none other than the human beat box Doug E. Fresh performed. Chicago represented and took home the victory.
The children of Chicago were brought together for an empowerment and enablement seminar titled, CHI Talks, hoping to bring positivity and create change for the future. The speakers were powerful and left a resounding message of hope for all in attendance. Highlighting the experience was guest speaker and Chicago native, Common. The b-boy, hip-hop artist, actor spoke candidly about his love for the city and invited the children to take a stand for change.
Even the retail experience got a facelift for the WBF as Nike Chicago unveiled the new Jordan brand space. Helping with the unveiling was the new member to the brand Jordan team and recently drafted NBA rookie, Jabari Parker. A collection of Jordan’s famous championship kicks were on display along with more tributes to his “Airness.”
The highlight of the experience for me was the opportunity to watch Team USA against the Brazil national team as they head into the FIBA World Cup tournament. The game was held at the historic United Center and walking on the famed court where Jordan, Pippen, and the rest of the Bulls played was surreal. This game also marked the return of Chicago’s own Derrick Rose, who showed his explosiveness after being off the court for over a full season. Yet the young guns with Anthony Davis, Steph Curry, James Harden, and Kenneth Faried, took center stage to leading the team to victory. The Round of 16 Tournament begins this weekend with Team USA clinching the number one seed.
All of this was brought together because of one game - not a giant bean, stark architecture, or hot dogs with no ketchup but a game that has created hope, positivity, and love.