Minneapolis' North basketball players design shoe for Nike

It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for the basketball team at Minneapolis North High School, as they brainstorm with Nike executives on designing a new line of sneakers.

A product line designer for Nike said Tuesday that the marketing team was blown away by the group of young men. Elements of their shoe designs could possibly even end up on a manufactured shoe one day.

It's often the life lessons you learn off the court that make a team stronger, and life can sometimes be challenging for the young men of North High School.

That's why their coach, Larry McKenzie, knew a trip to Chicago over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend would be eye-opening.

"To give them an opportunity to get away to be in a hotel, to be exposed to some different kinds of things—that’s part of that extended education that school should be about,” he said.

Between basketball games against high schools from across the nation, Coach McKenzie signed the team up for a workshop sponsored by Nike. The goal is to teach kids how they can still be connected to their sport, but in a different career.

“There’s more than just going to the NBA or going professionally; you can still be part of the game in some kind of way," said Nasir El-Amin, a junior at North High School.

Meeting with some of the marketing gurus behind the Nike brand, the students were asked to break up into groups and design a shoe.

But, there had to be a story behind it.

From personal stories about losing loved ones to breast cancer, or a friend from a rival team who passed away this summer, coaches and Nike executives were impressed with the heartfelt messages.

“These kids are really committed to the neighborhood and the school,” said Omar Brown, a junior.

The shoe made to raise awareness for breast cancer won, and the students behind the design hope it is eventually made into a real shoe.

But, then again, maybe one of the players will make a shoe line of his own.

"We have to think about life after basketball, and this was a good opportunity for us to take advantage of that," Nasir El-Amin said.