There was a bit of a surprise for the people in downtown Milan on Saturday afternoon when exactly 100 kids, all wearing red, hit the streets, each bouncing a basketball. Surprised Milanesi and tourists alike had the privilege to witness the first Armani Junior Basketball Invasion, a unique event that was a part of the program at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Fan Zone. During the invasion, which started at Giorgio Armani headquarters and ended at iconic Piazza del Duomo, the little ones drew loud cheers from crowds along the streets who stopped to observe the fun.
"Every child that has a dream to become a professional basketball player also dreams to be part of big events like this. And it does not get any bigger than the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four," said Paolo Monguzzi, Director of Armani Junior Program. "Being in the Fan Zone, with so many people watching, must be so exciting for them. It is great for the kids. At first, people were surprised when we proposed the idea of this event, but everyone bought into it. We wanted to show our program."
Accompanied by legends Riccardo Pittis and Antonello Riva, there were 100 kids ages 9 to 12 participating in the AJ Basketball Invasion. They came from eight out of the 82 clubs that Armani Junior Program has under its umbrella in city of Milan and Lombardia region.
One of them, Luca Colombo, 10 years old, has shown how much he's enjoying the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball Final Four games and surrounding events. "I've watched several live games of my favorite team, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan," he said. "I missed some of them, but for good reason: I was practicing! My favorite player? I can't pick only one: I like them all! I was supporting Barcelona in this Final Four. I'm disappointed with the loss, but it was a good experience anyway to watch them play."
While the kids were bouncing 100 balls, approaching Piazza del Duomo through Via Montenapoleone and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, two world-famous shopping streets in downtown Milan, the Armani Junior Contest was taking place at the Fan Zone. There, fans had a chance to participate in a 45-second shootout and win basketballs if they made 10 shots, or even an EA7 Emporio Armani Milan jersey if they hit 14.
In the meantime, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan's forward Nicolo Melli joined the Fan Zone to meet fans at the adidas store. The 22-year-old player represented the team of the city hosting the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball Final Four and savored the sweet taste of greeting a lot of fans that came to see him.
"It's definitely great to be here as I can enjoy all the excitement that Euroleague Basketball organization has brought to Milan," Melli said. "It's huge to see so many basketball fans just in front of the magnificent Duomo. I expect this event will help to let our local fans meet with those coming from all around the world for the very same reason: our love for the game."