The NBA Store, occupying a 25,000-square-foot corner storefront on Fifth Avenue at 45th Street, offers an immersive shopping experience for NBA fans. The store, designed by Gensler in conjunction with Kurt Salmon and TAD Associates, is a multidimensional design effort that merges basketball memorabilia with technology to produce unique interactive experiences.
Three floors of jerseys, hoodies, and hats, along with other official memorabilia spanning NBA, WNBA, and NBA D-League teams, are showcased to the public with a double height glass and aluminum facade.
Set in the circular corner bay of the storefront, 31,000 LED lights form a two-story tall skewed grid that evokes the form of a basketball net. The 32-foot tall structure is capped by a sculpture designed to replicate a basketball tread—presumably on its way to “swooshing” through the LED net.
Surfaces with hardwood floor patterning derived from the league’s recognizable maple wood courts extend outward beyond the glass facade to form portals and awnings. The aluminum panels are a product of Pure + Freeform, a bespoke metal company that according to Operations Director Will Pilkington, operates as “contextual, site-specific designers.” Gensler, interested in the idea of bringing a durable “hardwood court” aesthetic to the exterior facade, initially approached the company.
The process began with sending a sample of Madison Square Garden’s court which was sent to Pure + Freeform’s design team, which digitally copied the material properties of the court and created multiple diamond and laser engraved steel “design cylinders” capturing aesthetic qualities of the classic hardwood court. The cylinders etch into a one-eighth-inch aluminum plate through a controlled process of adding pearlized inks and resin. The plates are then baked to seal in the print. This exterior lumiflon resin technology process highlights Pure + Freeform’s “solutions-based manufacturing style” which involves production lines that add up to a 1/4 mile in length.
“The best thing about our process is we can create purposeful, site-specific finishes, but then they can be formed in almost any way to emphasize their depth and character,” explained Pilkington. The technology allows for a wide range of coloration, design, texture, and glossiness, allowing the design team to accurately produce a staggering array of material effects from natural stone and wood finishes to a variety of metallic, abstract, and bespoke finishes. Additionally, the printed resin fabrication process allows for the metal surface to be post-formed in a variety of challenging bent and folded configurations that typical painted surfaces would not hold up to. The NBA Store utilizes these abilities through a radiused concealed fastener application, forming the inner lining to the NBA’s trademarked logo, massively scaled up to the double height facade elevation. The material was used for interior wall paneling as well.
Beyond the facade, over-scale elements play a key role in the design, evoking the larger-than-life feeling fans may have when finding themselves standing next to basketball’s greatest players. A 40-foot footwear wall made from an undulating nylon “shoelace”, a Spalding basketball chandelier featuring 68 game balls, and a wall of 2,500 hats covering every team are among the store’s most architectural features. Departments are designed to produce basketball-specific environments. A children’s section doubles as a locker room, while video screens saturate the main floors arena-like vibe with a 400-square-foot video wall broadcasting highlights, news, and social media posts to keep fans up to date.
Personalization areas highlight a retail strategy that seeks to extend beyond the limits of a physical store, tapping into a vast number of online products, social media conversations, and customizable NBA merchandise. “It makes a 15,000-square-foot store like a 100,000-square-foot warehouse,” said Ross Tannenbaum, president of memorabilia and in-venue divisions for Fanatics, which is operating the store. In this sense, the retail store acts as a virtual portal of sorts, offering fans a virtual experience when entering the physical space.