Seemingly taking their inspiration from things like the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest or MLB’s Home Run Derby, Nike organized something called Strike Night earlier this week in London.
A panel of four judges (including Didier Drogba and Arsenal legend Ian Wright) and plenty of VIP guests (including Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, and a few other London-based Belgians from the Premier League — plus Harry Kane) watched what was supposed to be six contestants (all Nike athletes, obviously) vying for the big Strike Night wrestling-style belt.
But one of the contestants was late, so a seventh stepped in. Eventually Mr. Late showed up and made it all the way to the final, where he lost to André Silva who’s probably familiarizing himself with England before his inevitable big-money move there from Porto.
six seven contestant were:
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — disappointing
- Christian Benteke — poor showing
- Mauro Icardi — who seemed to be having fun despite speaking zero English
- Alex Iwobi — the last-minute replacement; tried to have some fun with it
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain — another poor showing
- Marcus Rashford — Mr. Late, but made it count
- André Silva — the undisputed champions
The biggest surprise of the night was the unveiling of Thibaut Courtois as the goalkeeper for the final round, the “final boss” as the announcers put it. The big man did well, though maybe he’d like to have that Silva shot back.
The whole thing was almost an hour and streamed on Facebook, and judging by the over two million views, did quite well for Nike. I’m sure they’ll refine the format for future editions, get better hosts and microphones, but as a first-pass concept, it’s got some promise.
The final round starts around the 45-minute mark. Eden Hazard cameos are a fair bit earlier, but I forgot to mark down the time. Here’s Jan Vertonghen’s Instagram instead.