NBA All-Star Weekend is always a fun time. There’s basketball players, celebrities, thotianas and thotianos, sneaker drops, events galore, and your favorite Highsnobiety correspondent. Why was I attending All-Star Weekend? For the same reason I attended New York Fashion Week: TO BE CLOUT-ADJACENT, of course. Ever wondered what it’s like to be orbiting at the periphery of culturally relevant people? Slip on some sneakers you can’t really afford and walk with me.
Day 1: “A Fit I’d Be Proud of on Any Day”
The weekend started off fairly ignominiously, as I decided to take the train into Chicago. I tried to convince myself it would be like taking the Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo, but unfortunately, it was exactly like taking an Amtrak through southwest Michigan and Indiana. The ride started off poppington. It was a completely sold out train, but I snagged an empty row to myself. Then a group of white couples started asking everyone to rearrange themselves so they could all sit together. As everyone begrudgingly started to shift, an observant individual muttered: “You know how white people be,” to which most of us laughed (except the one white lady asking everyone to play musical chairs on a moving train). I kinda let: “I mean… they’re not wrong are they?” slip out, after which the woman and her husband decided to move cars.
Four hours later I was in Chicago, my old stomping grounds. Initially, the plan was to have a nice romantic Valentine’s Day dinner with my girl, because that’s what you do on Valentine’s Day. We didn’t have any actual All-Star plans for Friday. But my girlfriend, being the cool half of our relationship, got an invite to Hub 23 to watch the Chicago Public School City Championship semifinals between Morgan Park and Bogan. I was pumped; I love watching basketball. But I was also facing a dilemma: We wouldn’t have time to change between the game and dinner.
So I could either get an All-Star Weekend fit off, or a NiceBoy™️ fit off for Valentine’s Day. I erred on the side of NiceBoy™️ and wore a blue suit with a black T-shirt, gold chain, and Clarks Wallabees — a fit I’d be proud of anywhere. I engaged in some proactive self-deprecation on the ride down to the south side, making jokes about how I look like a shady booster and/or recruiter that will offer prospects free tattoos and mid-level SUVs in exchange for committing to a school.
We arrived at Hub 23 and I entered a big-ass building full to the brim with people wearing Jordans, rare sneakers, tech fit sweatsuits, and moto jeans. Compared to them, I looked like a “cool” substitute teacher. I didn’t think too much of it, because my strategy was to simply blend into the crowd. Except my girlfriend has actual clout and we got seated courtside. EVERYONE SAW ME WEARING FUCKING WALLABEES TO A NIKE EVENT.
Thankfully, the game got interesting and I was able to escape relatively unscathed. I vowed to only get big fits off the rest of the weekend. Which seemed plausible, until I realized I didn’t have any Jordans and the only sneakers I brought on a whole ass trip to the All-Star Weekend were Wheat Air Force 1s.
Day 2: Struggle-Copping Some Jordans
We woke up early (OK fine, 11:30) to attend a design workshop headed by Jordan Brand, Virgil Abloh, Kim Jones, and Wizards player Rui Hachimura. That day I did have a nice casual fit on — featuring Nike sweatpants and the aforementioned AF1s. But let me tell you guys something: Seeing, like, a thousand people wearing Jordans makes you really, really, really want a pair of Jordans.
The design workshop was really cool. It was an opportunity for local art and design students to customize and create hoodies with the help of the Jordan Brand design team. The kids were enthusiastic, and watching them work on designs in groups, Project Runway-style, was fire. Right before the design workshop began in earnest, a true highlight of the weekend took place.
Nike had Carmelo Anthony announce to the kids that two winners would be chosen to have summer internships with Jordan Brand (including a week at Dior and a week at Off-White™). The kids seemed to allow for a potential career-defining internship to get in the way of realizing we were all, like, 15 feet away from Carmelo-fucking-Anthony. I almost lost my shit. I took several blurry photos of the god, noting that the least grainy image would be placed on my incense altar, to pray to when I need both literal and metaphorical buckets in life.
After the workshop, I was determined to buy a pair of Jordans — or at least some wildly expensive and difficult-to-pull-off sneakers. But first, there was a party to attend. We rolled up to the venue and the security guard took one look at me, clicked his walkie-talkie, and asked: “So, uh… what’s the dress code?” Two seconds later, he pointed at me and said, “Sorry, no sweatpants.” Normally, getting denied to a party is whatever for me, but the fact that there was literally no one else in line and that it was three in the afternoon really threw some salt into the wound.
So instead, I went to the Nike store to kill time before a Def Jam panel discussion. I’m not gonna lie, I was a little skeptical because there was a security guy there, too — and I wasn’t trying to get rejected back-to-back. But this time, I had a name to drop and it worked, so I slid in, sipping on free Boxed Water and trying to contain my excitement when I realized that Jadakiss, Chuck D, and God Shammgod were the panelists; Dave East was there too, but he gets mentioned last because he’s tall and good looking, and that’s annoying. There were some amazing quotables from the panel, namely Jadakiss’ advice to “drink lots of water,” when asked how he’s stayed young while technically being old.
After, I circled back to the Nike store to see if I could struggle-cop some Jordans, but it was overrun by hypebeasts like me who were also trying to struggle-cop some Jordans. I was gonna have to wear my AF1s back-to-back. That night, I slept through the dunk contest, because when you’re washed like me, fail at buying general release sneakers, and get rejected from a party in the afternoon, you accidentally fall asleep in your clothes on a Saturday night.
Day 3: “What You Know About Burna Boy?!”
You know how two days in a row I went to a space called “Hub 23”? It wasn’t until the third day that I realized that the name was a play on Michael Jordan’s number. So don’t let anyone tell you you gotta be smart to be a writer. On the car ride down to the south side, I frantically watched dunk contest clips so I, too, could act outraged at Aaron Gordon not winning.
After watching the City Championships, we decided to do some shopping. We hit up the Joe FreshGoods pop-up, moseyed down to RSVP Gallery, and checked out Notre. All three stores had great stuff, but I really just wanted a pair of red FIBA Jordan IVs. So, we did the sensible thing and went to the Snipes on the west side. They had the Jordans I wanted — and they were on sale! (Shout out to the west side Snipes and specifically NaNa, who helped me out by letting me know that some of the Jordans I was trying on made me look “a little goofy.”)
New Jordans in hand, we hopped in what would turn out to be a pretty surprising Uber. I was perusing the timeline when my girlfriend asked, “Is that a picture of Burna Boy?” and before I could answer, our driver — a very white, very Midwest man — exclaimed, “What you know about Burna Boy?!” He then proceeded to play us tracks “we gotta hear,” and guys, he had some heat on his playlist.
Did I wear my brand new Jordans to the All-Star game? For that to happen, I’d probably need tickets, and unfortunately I didn’t even get a priority standing invite. So we ordered Nando’s and watched the game while I wistfully looked at the sneaker box, wishing I could go back in time and not wear a fucking suit to a Nike event like a goddamn herb.
You’re probably thinking: Why the fuck did this guy ride a train and spend money to go to All-Star Weekend and not actually go to the game? ‘Cause that’s what you do when you’re tangentially related to a scene — you orbit it, hoping you get free stuff and a little taste of clout. If you’re trying to go next year in Indianapolis, take some advice from me: For the love of god, buy sneakers before your trip. And drink lots of water. Also, Aaron Gordon got robbed.