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Nike, Ja Morant & the Legend of Mt. 12Skii

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
How the Swoosh made the most of snowy Salt Lake in launching their latest signature star at the NBA’s midseason summit.

Chicago. Cleveland. Salt Lake City.

All three of these locations are notoriously frigid in February.

Despite dire temperatures and lack of winter tourism, the NBA has awarded All-Star Weekend to each snow-stamped city in recent years. For many, the freezing conditions are too much to bare.

However, for the good folks at Nike Basketball? There was no seasonal stage freight as the Beaverton brand doubled down on the polar pandemonium this weekend in Utah.

Ja Morant Mt. 12Skii
Via Nike

“Right now, it’s maybe 22 degrees in here,” Josh Loye, Nike Basketball Brand Director, said from inside their Mt. 12Skii activation.

“Yesterday, we had it at 18. It’s made entirely out of ice.”

Rather than igniting the internet with a Shock Drop or awaiting April’s playoff push, Nike Basketball stunned Salt Lake City fans by building an ice sculpture storefront for their newest signature star, Ja Morant.

Inside the aptly named Mt. 12Skii, local lovers of hoops and those brazen enough to brave the cold got the chance to buy the Nike Ja 1 months ahead of its retail debut.

Just blocks away from Vivint Arena — where Ja took center stage on Sunday as an All-Star starter — the SNKRS space stood tall in a parking lot, modeling a mountain made in the image of the Ja 1 and the Grizzly guard’s No. 12 chain.

Outside of Mt. 12Skii, a life-sized Ja figurine akin to the Travis Scott Rodeo album art was frozen inside an ice block, similar to what Austin Powers persevered through the ’60s.

Good luck stealing Morant’s mojo as he answered every media availability while wearing a sparkling grill and matching Ja 1s. Blocks away from Mt. 12Skii, the high flyer was all about the heat surrounding his store and sneakers on the ground in Utah.

“It’s definitely big time,” Morant told Boardroom. “Obviously, it’s a credit to all the work I put in day to day. I’m thankful to Nike for believing in me and honoring me with such a special gift.”

As alluded to, that special gift is his first signature sneaker with the Swoosh.

Ja Morant Mt. 12Skii
Ned Dishman/Getty Images

Back on Christmas Day, Ja debuted the model of his namesake with the world awaiting drop details.

For what felt like years, fans had been waiting on Morant to get his own signature shoe. In reality, it was a span of 18 months that made it all happen as Ja worked hand in hand with Nike designers from meetings in Memphis to campus visits in Oregon.

“It’s been a process,” Morant said. “I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.”

Up until this weekend, only Ja’s proud pops and daughter Kaari were privy to a pair.

That all changed at Mt. 12Skii as attendees were able to purchase the upcoming “Scratch” colorway — an homage to the Vancouver Grizzlies throwback jersey that returns next year — as well as the iced-out “Midnight” makeup.

For fans willing to wait in line and enter the frosty pop-up shop, pairs were delivered to them through a giant ice luge.

For Nike, a company incredibly invested in the soaring success of both Morant and his debut shoe, they were able to add energy and tell a story at All-Star Weekend.

While inline iterations of the Nike Ja 1 will hit stores in April for a price of $110 in adult sizing, this pre-heat release in Utah slides the scale of perceived value on what’s sure to be a mass-market hit.

Notably, the “Scratch” style is already going for three to ten times that of its retail rate on StockX.

Morant debuted the throwback style for the first time in his first All-Star start, taking flight in the teal take just blocks away from Mt. 12Skii.

Similarly, the Swarovski shining “Midnight” makeup — which retails at a whopping $400 — is doing double its MSRP in most sizes on StockX, ranging from $644 to $2,000 in asks.

At All-Star availability, Morant took to the podium in the “Midnight” makeup, answering questions about both his footwear and his pronounced pop-up space.

“I’m super excited for everybody to be able to get a pair of Ja 1s,” said Morant, who was experiencing peak popularity due to Mt. 12Skii.

Inside Mt. 12Skii, fans had the chance to cop cold-weather hoodies and winter-ready stocking caps. Adult items were adorned with the ice blue mountain while kids’ tees featured a seasonal snowman logo.

Though the Ja 1 is prime to bring Nike plenty of green, it’s another color that’s leading Ja’s line.

Similar to Jay-Z, Morant now has his own blue Pantone. Designers at Nike worked with Ja to make a signature shade inspired by his blue-collar mentality.

Across apparel, the bright blue shade scored Ja’s signature logo and accompanying clothing.

Ja Morant Mt. 12Skii
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Much like Michael Jordan before him, Morant’s All-Star arrival as a signature star sets the precedent for retail ranging from Ja branded t-shirts to corresponding accessories.

Shoes surmise the main intent of the partnership, but apparel is absolutely at play.

To many, the level of on-site energy and location-specific buzz brought together by Mt. 12Skii has been lacking by brands since COVID-19 turned the world upside down.

Back outside, Nike’s returning to its storytelling roots through theatrics and surprise.

When asked about Mt. 12Skii, Morant claimed it was “crazy,” absolutely astonished by his first All-Star start coinciding with a retail experience made entirely out of ice.

To many, activating a signature shoe in a smaller market such as Salt Lake City was crazy, too.

But for Nike, inspiring awe in spectators and doubling down on its athletes is what it’s all about.

“It was cold,” Morant closed on the below-freezing corridors of Mt. 12Skii.

“But I’m cold, so I didn’t mind it too much.”

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About The Author
Ian Stonebrook
Ian Stonebrook
Ian Stonebrook is a Staff Writer covering culture, sports, and fashion for Boardroom. Prior to signing on, Ian spent a decade at Nice Kicks as a writer and editor. Over the course of his career, he's been published by the likes of Complex, Jordan Brand, GOAT, Cali BBQ Media, SoleSavy, and 19Nine. Ian spends all his free time hooping and he's heard on multiple occasions that Drake and Nas have read his work, so that's pretty tight.