As the best high school ballplayers in America filed into Terminal 23 in New York City on Thursday for the unveiling of the Air Jordan XX9, they didn’t quite know what they were in for. “I didn’t even know we were doing this,” Karl Towns said with a shrug.
About a half hour later, none other than Michael Jordan himself strode out on stage a few feet in front of them. The stunned looks on their faces were priceless.
Because of its ability to create moments like that, the Jordan Brand Classic compares favorably in the hierarchy of high school all-american games. During a whirlwind week, the Jordan athletes visited BET and the Intrepid, spent some quality time with Carmelo Anthony and rapper Bun B, and participated in various clinics and lectures designed to enrich them as players and people.
The Classic itself, played at the Barclays Center, has an NBA-style atmosphere, complete with a legitimate celebrity row – shout out to World Wide Wes. Macklemore performed a postgame concert amid confetti and fireworks. And, perhaps best of all, the All-Americans got to play their final high school game in front of the greatest player ever, who peered down from a suite.
All that said, Towns was just seven years old when M.J. retired for the final time. Everyone wears his sneakers, but a decade removed from Jordan’s final fadeaway jumper, what does the man himself represent to the new generation of basketball?
Finish Line polled 10 of the finest up-and-coming players in America about what it means to them to play in the game that bears Jordan’s name, among other topics. Join us this week as we release two All American’s points-of-view per day to tell the bigger story of this grand event.
As a bonus, we also tracked down two notable courtside observers: Jordan Classic alum Tyler Ennis, who recently left Syracuse to declare for the NBA Draft, and former NBA player and current ESPN analyst LaPhonso Ellis.
In order of release date (check back here daily for an up-to-date list):