The NBA has created an out of this world experience for NBA fans who want to participate in the NBA All-Star Weekend excitement. NBA House presented by BBVA Compass, which serve as a fan hub — one in Manhattan in Skylight at Moynihan Station (Feb 10-16) and one in Brooklyn at LIU Brooklyn Paramount Theatre (Feb 11 -15) — offers an NBA-themed and interactive experience courtesy of its league sponsors. American Express, Kia, Samsung, Sprite, State Farm, Taco Bell, and so many others have developed a basketball wonderland for fans of all ages.
I visited the Manhattan location, which is the larger of the two. As soon as I entered, I felt like I was at an amusement park or Dave & Buster’s type of space. There were no shortage of activities that allowed me to live out my hoop star dreams for a day.
You can play one-on-one, try to nail a buzzer-beater at Taco Bell’s suite or attempt to knock down a half-court regulation shot with Sprint for a chance to cut your bill in half, and that’s just the beginning. Fans wandering throughout can also absorb the history of New York basketball legends as Chris Mullin, Bernard King, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others are recognized via the hanging of banners honoring NBA players bred in New York. But it’s not all about New York. The NBA is a global business. Games are broadcasted in 215 countries and territories in 47 languages. And with the help of Samsung and JBL fans can sample what a basketball game overseas feels like as they watch an NBA game and listen to a Mandarin or Arabic broadcast, for example.
It’s a fully immersive adventure that not only allows you to be active, but also allows fans to experience the NBA in a new and fresh way. Fans can purchase All-Star merchandise, admire signed memorabilia or even meet NBA players and legends who will be making special appearances over the next couple of days.
When I attended, I expected to do a quick walk thru, grab some shots and be out in 15 minutes. But I ended staying for an about an hour because the fan in me could not be denied.
Here are my top 5 reasons NBA House is a must-attend event this weekend!
1. SAMSUNG GALAXY EXPERIENCE
Of all the brand activation experiences, the Samsung suite made me feel things. It was totally pimped out like a VIP section at a nightclub — sleek technology, modern furniture, mood lighting. I was immediately into it. Of course, the purpose of the experience was to get fans to interact with Samsung products including phones, tablets, TVs, and even Gear VR Pods.
In the Players Lounge, fans watched classic NBA All-Star games or played video games on Samsung’s extremely sexy Curve TV. There was also a Kid’s-Only zone where children shot hoops and interacted with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S. There was a design station for fans to create custom bandanas, tote bags, and mini basketball hoops. But my favorite interactive experience was demoing the Gear VR Pods!
Twenty years ago, my father introduced me to the concept of virtual reality but it never caught on as he predicted. I guess the concept was ahead of its time two decades ago. And although virtual reality isn’t something everyone’s indulging in, it’s gaining in popularity.
The gentleman who assisted me suggested I travel to Dubai, and boy was it cool! I felt like I was floating in space, which was equally awesome and scary. Since I’m only 5’0, my feet didn’t reach the floor. As I looked through the glasses from a thousand mile high perspective in Dubai, and looked down, I thought I was going to fall over before I didn’t feel grounded. It was crazy. I asked the same gentleman if he or others often experience motion sickness because the experience is very realistic. He admitted motion sickness is an occasional side effect for some.
Right now, the Gear VR Pods only have seven or eight experiences but eventually, they’re going to program movies and TV shows into the product. The goal is for the Gear VR Pods to become a travel accessory like a tablet. I was also surprised to learn that the Gear VR Pods is relatively inexpensive. It costs $199, but is only compatible with the Galaxy Note 4. So if you’re an Apple junkie like me, you wouldn’t be able to use the Gear VR Pod without buying a Galaxy Note 4.
In addition to NBA House, you can interact with Samsung products via its mobile truck traveling through the city including Washington Square Park, Long Island University, Union Square and more.
The Samsung Galaxy Studio in SoHo is also hosting fans. If you visit the store between today and Saturday, you might have a chance to meet Paul Millsap, Wesley Matthews Jr., James Harden, Klay Thompson, or Al Horford.
2. STATE FARM ASSIST CENTER
State Farm is the title sponsor of the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, including Degree Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, and Sprite Slam Dunk contest. The insurance company is known for its popular “Born to Assist” marketing campaign starring Los Angeles Clippers point guard, Chris Paul. So, it’s only right that fans participating in State Farm’s interactive experience have a chance to test their assist skills using the same bounce, chest, and alley-oop pass mechanism as Saturday night’s All-Star skills competitors.
Each day State Farm’s brand reps track which fan made the most passes without a miss. Their names are added to the leaderboard and whoever finishes with the highest score receives an exclusive prize from one of State Farm’s NBA endorsers. For example, whoever won yesterday will be gifted with a fresh pair of unreleased Chris Paul sneakers.
When I heard the prize, I spent about 10 minutes trying to break the record. Sadly, my streak ended at four…but I blame it on the deflated balls. 😉
3. AMERICAN EXPRESS PIVOT
American Express PIVOT created an innovative digital video experience that provided fans with with an unprecedented look at the signature moves of John Wall, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Mason Plumlee. Leveraging state-of-the-art, wrap-around technology, fans were able to control the movements of each player while customizing their own virtual viewing experience. The players also explained “pivotal” movements in their careers that helped shaped their signature moves and NBA journey.
All of the action was controlled via a basketball mounted into a stand that moved side-to-side and up and down, similar to a computer mouse. It was very cool. If you have an affinity for video games, will absolutely enjoy American Express PIVOT.
Kia also had a setup at NBA House, but unlike the other brands, it wasn’t very interactive. However, it still got my attention because of its current “Fit for a King” LeBron James campaign promoting the K900 sedan. In the commercial, the car looks sweet and I wanted to see if the luxe appeal was real in person. I sat inside the vehicle, and was convinced that Kia has come a long way. The brand name doesn’t have as much equity as Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes, but trust me…the Kia K900 is a luxury vehicle all the way. I snapped a few pictures, but they didn’t do the car justice, so I’m not posting them. But here’s the King James Kia K900 TV ad because it’s so good.
5. GET A GRIP
Get a grip isn’t sponsored by a brand but it was still one of my favorite experiences at NBA House. The concept is simple. Place your hand in the handprint of All-Stars’ and see how the size of your hands compare. I have abnormally small hands to begin with so trying to palm a basketball and comparing the size of my hand to Tim Duncan, or even a small guard like Chris Paul was hilarious.
There are far more experiences to enjoy at NBA House than the five I listed above. So, if you have an opportunity to stop by either of the locations, go alone — or with the entire fam — and enjoy! If you take my advice, contact me and let me know what you thought about it!
Tickets for both locations are available here: http://www.NBATickets.com. Admission to the Brooklyn hub is $10, while tickets to the larger space in Manhattan are $20. To fully enjoy the action, children should be about four or five years old. But if you have children two-years-old and younger, they will be admitted for free. Have fun!