It’s not just the basketball teams who need to go hard or go home during all this fine NBA postseason action we’ve been watching the last two weeks. It’s also time for the advertisers — you know, those people who work hard to produce the product you’re probably skipping through on your DVRs, you cheaters — to step their games up. While even the worst commercial can become hypnotizing after you see it 750 times throughout the playoff coverage, a certain standard must be adhered to for these pitchmen to continue to deserve our undivided attention while pace our way through timeouts and quarter breaks — especially if they’re going to involve hoops in some way in their pitches.
So skimming through the three nationally televised games that were on Wednesday night — two on TNT, one on NBA TV — I’ve listed every commercial I saw that in some way involved the sport of basketball, ranked from worst to best. I eliminated the previews of upcoming games, as well as a couple of the NBA.com spots that were basically just straight advertisements without any kind of attempt at a hook, but the rest are all there. Sorry if I’m missing one or two that have been driving you nuts, but I don’t have the kind of research grant that allows me the time and DVR space to use the entire postseason’s worth of coverage as my data. Trust me, there’s enough to work with here as is.
15. NBAStore.com (Guy in Russell Westbrook Jersey Fantasizes About Hitting a Buzzer-Beater)
Many, many things bug me about this commercial, but I’ll keep it to the top three:
1. Shouldn’t Russell Westbrook be contractually obligated to at least make a token appearance in a commercial so prominently featuring his jersey? Why does he deserve that kind of exposure when he’s too lazy to show up for a two-second punchline?
2. Why did Rajon Rondo agree to be used in a commercial where all he does is play piss-poor defense on a guy for 20 seconds (He’s not even paying attention to the game! Go for the strip!) and then get burned for a pull-up three? I thought making the All-Defense Team was a priority for this guy.
3. What kind of woman willingly sleeps in the same bed with a man in his late-20s/early-30s who uses an NBA jersey for pajamas and still fantasizes about being a 22-year-old NBA player? Clearly, this is not a man deserving of sex, and spreading the lie that he is sends the youth all kinds of bad messages.
Oh, also, the commercial sucks. That bothers me too I guess.
14. iRenew Sport (“Professional Basketball Player Rajon Rondo Wears iRenew Sport”)
Not to pick too much on poor Rajon Rondo here — trust me, dude, I’m rooting for you in round two — but I dunno whose thought process here is more perplexing: Rajon Rondo for agreeing to hawk this obvious sham of an energy bracelet, or iRenew for willingly choosing the least personable player in 21st-century basketball as their spokesman. What company thinks to themselves “OK, we need an NBA player’s endorsement to help promote this product. Let’s get one that looks like an alien, never says more than a sentence to anyone unless absolutely necessary, and often acts like he’d be totally cool with ditching basketball to go live out on a farm somewhere!”
The results, obviously, are not terribly inspiring, as the commercial’s low-grade graphics and laughably poor sell-job make it look like something you shouldn’t have to see on TV before 2:00 AM, and Rondo’s half-hearted boasts of “I could do this allll night” make Derrick Rose sound like a method actor by comparison.
13. BBVA Compass (“To Win, You Can Not Do It Alone.”) — no clip available
I like seeing highlights of good NBA passes as much as anyone, I guess, but I’m just not sure that I’m seeing the connection between fancy dishing and financial assistance here. “In the NBA, every player knows, to win you can not do it alone. It takes teamwork. BBVA Compass will help you plan ahead…” So to win at money, we need a bank to hit us in stride on a cut to the basket? Whatever.
12. State Farm (“A Binky for Baby Bron-Bron”)
I was the biggest proponent of the “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There” wish-fulfillment series as anyone in its infancy, but nothing signals overkill like getting LeBron and his buddies (who I’ve been sick of since they were making Kid n Play jokes three post-seasons ago) in on the bit. I hate LeBron, I hate his white sweater, I hate how little enthusiasm he puts into his pronouncement of the catchphrase, and I hate that he summons Michael Buffer to signal that Shit Is On between him and his friend, instead of summoning a dinosaur to eat him or something. Not gonna lie, though, I do kinda like Bron’s “Playing the World’s Smallest Violin” facial expression, though. That’s the only reason there are three other commercials lower than this on my list.
11. Let’s Move! (Michelle Obama Supports NBA-Related Exercise)
Can’t say too much against our First Lady here, or her noble pursuit of killing off the country’s fatties, but I don’t need her making me feel even lazier than I already do for watching six hours’ worth of televised basketball a night by telling me what great exercise actually getting out and playing the damn sport is. Besides, she claims basketball is an “amazing sport” because “there’s running, there’s jumping, there’s even dancing!” Yeah, no one’s gonna be confusing you with David Halberstam for that level of poetic analysis, Michelle.
10. NBA 2K11 (“I’m a Competitive Guy”)
How the hell is this commercial still on the air? I liked it well enough at first, with the “Sirius” and the pixelated Michael slamming on LeBron, and the real-life Jordan demonstrating his psychotic need to prove his dominance over every player from every era. But jeez, enough is enough by this point. Somebody please release a fucking game starring Clyde Drexler or Gary Payton or something. Besides, it always irked me that they couldn’t get Jordan to record a new voice-over rather than recycling this old interview. Of course, that probably would have involved MJ having to talk to people, and we all know how much he hates doing that.
9. T-Mobile (Buffering…)
I should hate this commercial more than I do, what with its obvious pro-Heat bias, the always-irritating presence of the girl in pink, and the fact that the guy apparently thinks it’s super, super suspenseful to be kept in waiting from finding out whether or not Dwyane Wade will be able to throw down an uncontested dunk two inches away from the basket. But while I certainly don’t like it, I can’t really muster much hate for it, possibly because I just love the dude ragging on his mom. (“IN YA FACCCCCCCE!!!!!” — I feel like my high school friends and I would’ve had fun interjecting impressions of that one for a good solid month or so.)
8. Haier (“We Will Go-o-o…”)
I couldn’t even have told you what product the Haier brand sells — TVs or refrigerators, probably — but as much NBA as I’ve watched these lastfew years, that Haier song has to be an inextricable part of my very DNA. Sing it with me: “WE WILL GO-O-O / HAIIIIIIIERRRRR!!! / WE WILL SHI-I-INE / BRIIIIIGHTERRRR!!!” I should be deathly sick of it by now, but I’ve never paid enough attention to it to even really notice it when it was on. There’s basketball clips on a couple of the TVs in this commercial, by the way, which is why it gets mentioned here at all, but were I not specifically researching it for this article, I would never have been able to tell you that. (By the way, the song is called “Higher,” by some band called Mere. How has no one ever done this on “American Idol?”)
7. NBA Playoffs (“There’s This Thing That Happens Sometimes at Tip-Off”)
I love talking things. Give me some object talking, and it’s a very, very easy sell. Still, in this first edition of what I assume to be a recurring campaign throughout the playoffs — basketballs talking about their experience being at the center of attention in the post-season — the hook isn’t really quite there yet, and the whole “Goliath better be ready to tangle, because David’s got a 7-foot-5 wing span…” thing just isn’t doing it for me. Plus, while as a Sixers fan, I appreciate some Elton Brand face time, I don’t think that anyone would argue that there’s way too much Jeff Teague in this spot for anything that’s supposed to get fans excited about meaningful basketball being played.
6. Kia Optima (Blake Jumps Over a Car)
I probably wouldn’t have this so high if my dad didn’t tell me recently that he was really impressed with the air that Griffin gets in this spot. Before, I thought the dunk was overrated and the commercial overblown, but my dad doesn’t get impressed easily, so I’m forced to re-consider. I do like the “Most of the stuff that’s possible has already been done” quote from Griffin setting the tone, and the open-mouthed look of amazement on Baron’s face from the car’s sun roof is nice, but I’m still not 100 percent sold on the dunk — especially because the commercial is obviously shot from an angle designed to cover up that Blake’s really only jumping over the hood of the car, not the roof. Plus, how do you think poor DeMar DeRozan feels every time this commercial comes on? Hasn’t he suffered enough?
5. Men of a Certain Age (“You’re Jordan, and You’re Pippen.”) — no clip available
A short-but-sweet NBA-related spat in a commercial for one of the most underrated shows on television. Scott Bakula and Other Guy are fighting over who gets to be top-dog salesman, when Andre Braugher deems them “both All-Stars…you’re Jordan, and you’re Pippen.” Upset at getting stuck with Pippen, Bakula claims Other Guy is “Jordan, but when he played for the Wizards.” (Still an All-Star! Both years!) Other guy then shoots back the final dagger: “You’re Jordan when he played for the White Sox.” Game, set, match, Other Guy.
4. T-Mobile Sidekick Friend (Rapping Guy)
Eh, what can I say? I’m a sucker for a good awkward commercial rap. I can understand if this commercial is already triggering various unwanted reflexes for you, but I’m just wondering/hoping if I’m gonna know all the words well enough to rap it myself by the end of the finals. (Hey, the girl in pink seems to be grooving to it — who are we to argue?) I do wish they hadn’t gone with the subtitles, though — trying to decipher the whole thing over the course of the post-season could have made for a nifty little subplot to these playoffs. And also, another low blow against Barkley’s golf swing? C’mon, man, at least go the Krispy Kreme route with the overplayed Chuckster jokes.
3. NBA TV (“We’re Talking Crazy Big”)
I’ve loved these big-head NBA TV commercials all season. They do what all the good NBA TV campaigns have done so well over the years (except for that unfortunate stretch dabbling in AutoTune) — take simple hooks, and base them around clips of awesome NBA action. This one might be my least favorite, because it leans a little too heavy on the NBA TV announcers (nobody needs to see big-head Brent Barry, honestly), but it’s still jazzy, fun, and memorable. Especially the part where the giant heads of Kobe, Dirk and KG burst the roof off of Staples Center. (Kobe looks pissed off about it, which is confusing but probably appropriate, since he looks pissed off about everything these days.)
2. Priceline (“Well Played, Naomi Pryce”)
I could’ve sworn that it was Charisma Carpenter, getting her first notable work since season two of “Veronica Mars,” playing new Priceline Negotiator adversary Naomi Pryce, but really, it’s just some lookalike nothing actress named Sacheen Padilla. In any event, that’s definitely Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, newfound advertising whore, at the end there, making for an absurd blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo even by his commercial standards. In a stronger crop of NBA-related commercials, this one probably wouldn’t be walking home with the silver medal. But I like ridiculous ad campaigns that keep pushing their stupid gimmicks into new, undesired directions years after they should have probably quit and started over. And I really, really like Charisma Carpenter.
1. NBA Playoffs (.4 Seconds)
The only one of these ads that I love completely and unreservedly. Everything about it is great: The highlight chosen, the voice talents of Charlie Murphy, the sight of a talking basketball making the “deflate” sound, and most of all, the accidental catchphrase of the 2011 post-season, “FISHY RIM!” It’s one of those ads I stop to watch even when I’m fast-forwarding through a commercial break, which I don’t think I’ve done since the first round of Kobe vs. LeBron puppet ads two postseasons ago. It sets the bar pretty fucking high for whatever further entries in this series there are to come — and there better be a whole bunch of ‘em — and it’s as great a reminder of how fantastic postseason basketball is.
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