What is the NBA Nation Tour, you might ask? Well...allow me to explain!
The NBA Nation Tour is a nationwide tour that will visit 8 cities, including Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles, Cleveland, New York City, Philadelphia, St. Paul, and finally ending in Dallas. At this event are various events, much like the events that are seen at All-Star Jam Session. In attendance at every stop and serving as the tour ambassador is former NBA superstar Darryl Dawkins. Of the guests specific to Phoenix, we had Cedric Ceballos, the Suns Gorilla, and the Suns Dancers were in attendance.
About a week ago, we here at Bright Side were asked by the kind people running the NBA Nation Tour if we would be able to attend and give a first hand recounting of the event. I volunteered for the opportunity and was on my way to the tour kickoff in downtown Phoenix.
From what I was expecting, I was expecting maybe a few hoops, a couple tables for autographs from Cedric or Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins, and maybe one of those truck trailers that folds down into a virtual playplace. I was correct on all of those things, but there was much more to the event than I had expected.
The first thing that caught my eye was the Kia Skills Challenge course set up at the beginning. I'll be honest, every time the NBA players do the Skills Challenge during All-Star weekend, I always want to do it. Always. And luckily, I was provided that opportunity this weekend.
During the first day, and while I waited for the Sprite Slam Dunk Challenge to start, I decided to walk through the exhibit to see more of what it was all about. There was a game of Around the World happening, which, with the winds the way they were, I was happy to have made three shots in the 40 seconds. I went up to that unfolded truck trailer, played a quick quarter of NBA 2k10 (and beat my friend Steve, mind you), and looked around up there. There were basketballs with handprints of NBA and WNBA players, the soles of NBA players' shoes, and other various things around.
It finally came time to watch the Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown, where 9 local dunkers were throwing it down (or not, in the case of a couple contestants) for the delight of the fans. Kenny Dobbs, or KD as the judges were calling him, was one of the most impressive. He had a long ponytail (like, 5 times as long as Lou's, at least) and didn't look overly athletic. However, for his first dunk, he had one of the other contestants lob the ball to him, and he basically jumped over the other dunker, all while doing an under the leg, one handed jam. I was impressed.
Note: Even if you have an awesome play-on-words name like "Asian Zero", if you can't dunk, you shouldn't be in the dunk contest. Sorry man.
Sunday was much more centered on the NBA's NBA Fit program, which saw many of the youth in attendance stretching, measuring their vertical leaps, and doing other agility training things. None of it was too rigorous, but it was a good introduction and publicity move for the NBA's fitness program. It seemed like the kids were enjoying it, and that was the part that I think was most impressive. Anytime you can get today's kids up, active, and actually enjoying themselves, you know you've done something right. But maybe that's just me.
Aside from that, it was more of the same. I played a game of H-O-R-S-E with Los, last year's Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown runner-up and a few other guests at the event, and actually wound up beating Los before ultimately losing out. I cruised around the exhibits for a bit, and after seeing Suns legend Ernie Johnson talk to the fans, I felt I had had a successful trip out to downtown Phoenix.
I was extremely impressed with the amount of things the NBA Nation Tour had in a relatively small area. I never felt like I had run out of things to do, and for a tour that's only in its second year, it seems like it'll stick around for awhile. It seemed like everyone that was kickin' around the NBA part of the whole experience were having a genuinely good time, and that includes me. It was a fun experience that catered to everyone from older fans to families.
All in all, it was a great event, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the game of basketball.
Disclosure: Bright Side of the Sun was provided two free tickets to this event.