Hennessy x NBA: Live and Direct With AJ Tracey Onboard a Floating Basketball Court

The Ladbroke Grove rapper kicks off a three-day celebration of basketball in the Capital with a live performance from the UK’s first floating court on the River Thames.

In partnership with Hennessy

Parked in the middle of one of the Capital’s most bustling water lanes, AJ Tracey performs live from a slick, jet-black basketball court in front of Tower Bridge. Flanked by Uber boats and tourist cruises, he’s taken to the barge-turned-court-turned-stage to kick off the opening ceremony for the unveiling of the UK’s first floating basketball court, which is travelling down the River Thames between Woolwich and The Houses of Parliament – a collaboration between Hennessy and the National Basketball Association (NBA), in a three-day celebration of the sport in London.

The floating court is the latest launch in the ‘Courts Beyond Limits’ series, a global collaboration from Hennessy and the NBA that unveils first-of-their-kind basketball courts at iconic locations around the world, and has already hosted pop-ups in Sydney, Lagos, Hong Kong and Shanghai. This weekend’s London festivities are part of a long-term commitment from Hennessy to invest in the sport, which has seen court makeovers around the world, with plans to also renovate one in the UK alongside a local British artist.

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NME is invited on-board as the court docks up in Butler’s Wharf, to get an up close and personal view of the west London rapper’s powerhouse performance. Shortly after knocking back a cherry flavoured Hennessy cocktail, I clamber onto a speed boat and park myself in the front row with AJ Tracey, as it ferries him over to the barge, which is now positioned in the middle of the river. “Do a wheelie!” the rapper shouts to the skipper as we’re zooming over against the clock before the live-streamed broadcast of his performance starts. He climbs onto the court as the rest of us get comfortable with a front row view port-side.

 

 

It’s a special collaboration for Tracey, who’s a big NBA fan himself. “Moments like this really put London’s love of the game on the map,” he said in a press statement, “and with the ongoing support from Hennessy, I’m excited to see the impact it has on basketball in the UK and the communities it’s giving back to.”

Launching into an impassioned performance of ‘Reasonable’, Tracey is light on his feet despite the choppy Thames, as he adopts centre court as his stage. Camera boats cut circles in the river while a helicopter hovers overhead, curious commuters peeking over Tower Bridge at the spectacle while heading home from work. “Live from London, you already know where it is,” Tracey says, Tower Bridge framing his performance like a postcard. ‘Little More Love’ follows, a water-tight performance that only seems to be heightened by the open-air buzz of performing under an iconic landmark in his home city. ‘Ladbroke Grove’ ties up the celebrations, performed live and direct down a fish-eye lens for fans watching around the world.

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The next day the court becomes host to a tournament, ‘London’s Got Game’, which sees the city’s biggest names and vital communities come together to celebrate the street culture soul of basketball, hosted by Love Island’s own professional baller, Ovie Soko. The court also opens to the public for a free event, with shooting challenges and trick shot lessons from the pros, with cocktails, street food and live DJs.

NME returns to land feeling a little woozy, but buzzing from the adrenaline (and maybe Cognac) fuelled spectacle of the first-of-its-kind performance from Tracey to kick off a weekend celebration of basketball culture in the city.

In February 2021, the NBA and Hennessy announced a multiyear agreement that marked the league’s first-ever global partnership with a spirits brand and ushered in the next chapter of Hennessy’s relationship with the NBA, expanding on the North American deal that was announced in February 2020.

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