Panini America, Sports Legends Pack Punch During 2015 National VIP Party (Gallery)
CHICAGO — On a postcard-perfect Saturday night at Chicago’s iconic Solider Field, in a horizontally sprawling suite tucked majestically behind the iconic structure’s trademark colonnades, Panini America’s fourth annual National VIP Party unfolded amid considerable pomp and circumstance as more than 250 special guests basked in the brilliance of a fantasy come to life.
Bolstered by some of the sports world’s biggest stars — including Baseball Hall of Famers (John Smoltz and Ryne Sandberg), a football legend (Ricky Williams), NBA royalty (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), basketball’s future (Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis) and a party-stealing appearance from the incomparable Mike Tyson, Panini America’s 2015 National VIP Party left attendees laughing, crying, starstruck (sometimes all at once) and thoroughly entertained.
It was Tyson who requested two chairs — one for him to sit in and one right next to him so that anyone who wanted to could pose for a picture with him. Seemingly everyone in the party wanted to. But when they weren’t mugging with Iron Mike or casually rubbing elbows with the other VIPs in attendance, Panini America’s most passionate customers and business partners were enjoying good food, good times, Gold Packs, Black Boxes and unforgettable camaraderie.
That point certainly was not lost on Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer who posted his thoughts on his Facebook page one day after the party. Indeed, on a night when fans and collectors enjoyed the rare opportunity to spend quality time rubbing elbows and exchanging stories with some of their sports heroes, those heroes did not disappoint.
Abdbul-Jabbar scored, Sandberg and Smoltz delivered Hall of Fame performances, Williams took the proverbial ball and ran, Parker and Portis impressed and Tyson delivered one knock-out memory after another. Luckily for us, renowned Chicago photographer John Gress was there to document the memorable night for Panini America.
In the gallery that follows we showcase some of Gress’ work. Enjoy the gallery and stay tuned to The Knight’s Lance for continued coverage of the 2015 National VIP Party, including a must-see highlight video featuring interviews with all of the VIP guests. Until then, here’s a look at the night in pictures.
For coverage of previous Panini National VIP Parties, check out these links: