Sports generally deal in the business of packaged nostalgia. The teams or players you fell in love with early on are the ones you’ll swear were the best; the mirage that the past was better keeps old eras and players relevant through conversation and argument.
This happening can be applied to many things.
But not to old NBA commercials. Because NBA commercials nowadays kind of suck.
During The Golden Age, the commercials were rich. Substantive. Dramatic. Clever. Spine-tingling. And super not corny. (How dare you?).
Let me prove my point, through YouTube links.
The commercial: An endearing ode to KG's trade to Boston
When: Summer, 2007
Why it works: It’s a great representation of a unifying sports moment, mixed with an appropriate song: Badfinger’s I remember. If you were in Massachusetts when Kevin Garnett waved his no-trade clause, then you know: This really is how it was. Plus, one scene has a Fathead. Remember those?
The commercial: The NBA’s Where amazing happens campaign
When: Fall, 2007
Why it works: The music choice is an emotional piano song (which also had a cameoin The Simpsons), and is set to great recent NBA moments: Kobe’s 81 points. Ben Wallace’s fro. Golden State’s We Believe team. It’s so 2007. Here’s a compilation of every Where Amazing Happens commercial.
The commercial: A promo for the 2009 NBA Playoffs
When: Spring, 2009
Why it works: With the same piano music, it’s a well-written and well-edited script read by the players who mattered most in 2009. It ends with a splitscreen of Kobe and KG and a dramatic pause (and possibly some tears). Here’s a similar one with Larry Bird and Magic.
When: Summer, 2009
Why it works: This was one of the best in a long line of specific commercials, putting past and present NBA stars in funny predicaments while riding in a cross-country RV. In this iteration, Magic Johnson and James Worthy reveal to Lamar Odom, who is eating chips and clutching his new Larry O’Brien trophy, that the top of the trophy has a guacamole holder and the bottom has a nacho cheese tray. Here’s a good compilation of other ESPN RV commercials.
When: Winter, 2012
Why it works: It is nostalgia come to life. The commercial photoshops old stars playing with new stars in a non-corny way, while Live forever by The Neighbors plays.
The commercial: A postseason hype up of the 2012 Boston Celtics
When: Spring, 2012
Why it works: In 2012, the Celtics were a fringe contender with a bunch of old Hall of Famers, plus peak Rajon Rondo. No one expected them to do much, but they almost rag-tagged their way to the NBA Finals, making this commercial oddly prophetic. Here are the other nine commercials done in this format.
The commercial: Nike’s late-career ode to Kobe
When: Winter, 2013
Why it works: It’s completely abstract and likens Kobe to, among other things, a lion and a philosopher. It’s aged beautifully or horribly, depending on who you ask, but at least it doesn’t involve Hulu having live sports.
Obviously, The Golden Age has many more. Send some back if you want.
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