Sunday February 15th, 2015

NEW YORK -- Even though Jordan Brand has hit age 30, a great time for a midlife crisis, the company continues to find new -- and humongous -- ways to tap into its nostalgic past while connecting to the next generation of basketball fans and sneakerheads.

As LeBron JamesKevin Durant and company went through All-Star practice at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, hundreds of people were lining up across the street, braving the frigid 27 degree weather for a chance to tour Jordan Brand's All-Star headquarters. The massive, two-story space was tricked out with technology, loaded with one-of-a-kind Michael Jordan memorabilia, and even featured a gallery of well-known, and hand-notated, Walter Iooss photographs of Jordan throughout the years.

After a full tour, the takeaway was that Jordan had succeeded in finding something for everyone. Adult fans -- those who remember watching him play or growing up with him as the globe's biggest sports icon -- were treated to a museum-like experience. Game-worn, autographed shoes, some of which were being held together by rubberbands, were housed under glass case and presented next to videos or text that explained their significance. Want to see the black-and-red sneakers Jordan wore when he dumped 63 points on the Celtics in the 1986 playoffs? Boom, there they are, alongside a photo from the game, a box-score featuring his stats, and the famous quote from Larry Bird: "I think it's God disguised as Michael Jordan." 

(Ben Golliver/SI.com)

The memorabilia exhibits seemed to go on and on: designer Tinker Hatfield's early hand-drawn concepts for Jordan sneakers, a red "45" jersey, sneakers from Jordan's "Dream Team" stint at the 1992 Olympics, an original Chicago Tribune from 1993 showing the Bulls clinching their first three-peat bearing the headline, "Three-mendous!"

(Ben Golliver/SI.com)

 
Equally remarkable was the Iooss exhibit, which featured large reproductions on canvas that decorated a long, wide hallway on both sides. Iooss wrote little notes about where and when he took some of his most famous shots, including the enduring shot from the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest, the captivating all-white photo used as the cover for "Rare Air," and a locker room celebration photo that shows Jordan holding a cigar and wearing a wide smile.
 

Walter Iooss Jr./SI

Younger fans looking for a more active experience found plenty to keep themselves busy. Jordan Brand's new slogan -- "I'm not Michael, I am Jordan" -- was conceived with the idea of appealing to fans who are too young to remember Jordan's playing career. Built around current players like Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the campaign aims for inclusion, suggesting to teens that they can connect with the company like their older friends or parents might have connected with the player.

(Ben Golliver/SI.com)

To that end, Jordan Brand's space included a "selfie" camera that allowed fans to take pictures of themselves alongside the new tagline, as if they were in an ad. Jordan Brand also equipped all visitors with an RFID bracelet so that they could digitally access that image or other multimedia content available during the experience.

The centerpiece of the entire space was a massive LED simulator, which used 876 screens to create a stadium-like atmosphere. The half-court set-up included a real ball, a real basket and a real defender, and it allowed fans to recreate Jordan's game-winning shots from the 1982 NCAA tournament and the 1998 NBA Finals. From an unscientific survey, fans seemed to prefer reenacting the latter, as they were able to "shove off" on the Bryon Russell stand-in before pulling up to hit their shot. Depending on the result of the shot, the LED screens would display a stadium crowd's reaction (cheering or disappointment) and a quote from Jordan about success or working to overcome failure.

(Ben Golliver/SI.com)

The Jordan Brand space is located at 401 7th Ave. in Manhattan and it will continue to be open to the public through Monday. All-Star Weekend themed version of Jordan's current lineup of shoes and apparel are available on-site for purchase. Jordan-philes in the area are strongly encouraged to check it out.

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