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Inside Jordan Brand’s Terminal 23

Traffic is thick during the six o’clock hour in Mid-Town Manhattan. People are bustling their way towards the PATH Train. I only have an address and a faint description of where I’m headed. Terminal 23 at Café Rogue, next to Hotel Pennsylvania. The Hotel Pennsylvania was an added variable to the directions that confused me, having only been familiar with their rooms from hanging out here with friends during the 2002 CMJ Music Marathon. The other time was to sneak into the lobby’s bathroom after a long night of deejaying, but proved unsuccessful because I wasn’t a guest. Any other annex to the hotel was a mystery. Moving right along, up 32nd St., I passed the 7th Avenue entrance to Hotel Pennsylvania, and did a double-take at the sight of a set of black doors with photos of Carmelo Anthony as a Knick, an image of Michael Jordan taking flight in his Jumpman stance, and various shots of the Nike Air Jordan 1 wheat pasted around the door’s frame. I finally arrived.

Once past the venue’s security guard, the room on the other side of the monolith doors was silent. Whispered introductions with the event’s public relations agents almost seemed to disturb the hum of the barely dim lights. Our exchange of pleasantries was akin to Nick Carraway’s casual conversation with the man who fixed the World Series in The Great Gatsby. This alley-turned-gallery was once looked upon with wide eyes by cultured New Yorkers in the 1920s up to the ’50s. I was standing on the sacred ground of Café Rouge, a treasure in New York City nightlife. To give perspective, my late grandmother was a toddler when Café Rouge was illuminated by gorgeous chandeliers and white table cloths that was enjoyed by high society. Frank Sinatra was mentioned by the Terminal 23 staff as one of the regulars who performed at Café Rouge, along with jazz pianist Duke Ellington.

On Tuesday night, however, the player in the spotlight was New York Knick, Carmelo Anthony. His 10-year legacy with Jordan Brand was being celebrated in an exclusive space built over the course of 15 days at the newly-renovated space. Visitors like children from basketball leagues around the five boroughs, and community programs are the beneficiaries of the venue as a fresh alternative to the courts they play, or lack thereof. Anthony toured the facility recently during his promotional tour for the Air Jordan Melo M10. He was hooked by the laid back atmosphere consisting of brown plush leather couches, basketball skee ball machines, a video game center to play NBA 2K14, and a full court with his nickname printed at both ends. Amidst the cosmetic changes that came with Terminal 23, one of the founding elements of Café Rogue that still remains is the fountain perched on the east wall. This design of grace and beauty overlooks the warriors in the former ballroom.

The venue is as mellow as Melo does. Cool lighting off the court; black and gold colors on the hardwood exude Melo’s bold and regal persona, respectively. The Knicks Wall was invited for a tour and an open run. We channeled the history of the brand Michael Jordan built when he entered the NBA in 1984, pictured in the wheat paste images in the entrance’s gallery. Other images from the ’80s and ’90s were plastered: the logo from the seminal hip-hop film Krush Groove, the Notorious B.I.G.’s Unsigned Hype feature from The Source Magazine, to a screenshot of rappers the RZA and the GZA from Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Central show, exhibit the culture of New York City that inspired Melo over the 10 years he has been with Jordan Brand. Fun fact: Carmelo Anthony was also born in the same year Jordan came into the league. Terminal 23 is currently open for private use only through May. For now, click through the gallery for a look at the interior of Terminal 23, some shots from the open run, and a GIF that counts down Melo’s 10 shoes soon to be retro-ed by Jordan Brand.

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Photography by Jon Lopez and Dorothy Hong