What does a large group of children under 12 years old do when waiting for a star of the NBA to show up?
In Downtown Los Angeles on a chilly Wednesday evening, it was a mix. Some played patty cake, some wrestled lightheartedly, a lot joshed each other for how they would act when they saw the entire reason they’d gotten on a bus in the afternoon to leave school: Russell Westbrook.
“Ah man, you’re nervous? I’m so hype, so hype,” one boy said with a little jump.
The NBA star, an L.A. native and record-setting point guard for the Houston Rockets, was to appear at Nike’s Jumpman L.A. store to unveil the third version of his Jordan sneaker, dubbed the Why Not? Zer0.3. The children were invited to see it first, hear Westbrook speak and then have him coach them in some basketball. Trouble was, he wasn’t there.
The event was billed to begin at 4 p.m., and many of the children got there promptly and were told to sit on the rooftop, built out as a basketball court, after a brief “design session” inside the store, that seemed to be a handout of Why Not? (Westbrook’s “mantra”) swag and large poster cutouts of Westbrook’s smiling face. A little before 5 p.m., when the official Westbrook part of the evening was set to begin, everyone was told to sit on the floor of the court, in front of a small stage.
5 p.m. came and went with no Westbrook. The children were patient, but it was getting cold, at least by L.A. standards. About 55 degrees, and it was windy on the roof. A few large blankets were brought out by staff. Eventually the children started to lay down, many cuddling in groups under the blankets, some dozing while their parents and chaperones sat in the stands, pulling their jackets close.
Around 5:30, still being patient, they were told to stand up and “get excited.” The host of the evening got them moving with a quick dance contest. Clearly trying to kill time, he then tried some crowd work, asking the kids what school they went to. They weren’t too enthused. But, wait, there was word Westbrook was in the building.
Told to keep standing and get their phones ready, the kids started to crowd around the stage. Phones in the air, word came through that it would be “a couple more minutes.” That turned into about 20 minutes.
The kids started to mill around, the host out of ways to keep the kids occupied and excited at an event that had no snacks and not even any basketballs to play with, despite being on an actual court. Then suddenly a smoke machine came on. “Oh, you know when the smoke starts that means someone’s coming,” the host said, trying. The kids started to get excited and crowd the stage again. But still, Westbrook didn’t appear.
Finally, just under an hour late, when the event was supposed to be wrapping up, Westbrook came through the fake smoke and took the stage. The kids were no doubt excited to see him, finally, but it was a little less audible than one might expect.
Westbrook made no apology for his lateness, gave no explanation either. He merely offered as he sat down, “I know y’all cold, take a seat.”
Then, as promised, he took a pair of his new shoes out of a Nike box. There was some “Oooo”-ing from the kids, the first to get a look at the white high-top sneaker featuring some highlighter blue and red. Westbrook decided to put the shoes on as a host said repeatedly, “Launching January 2nd.”
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