10 Best NBA Commercials of the Past Decade
Over the last 10 years, the NBA commercial game has changed.
Back in the day, companies could crank out great advertisements just by filming a shootaround with Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Now, players are embracing their inner quirk more deeply than their predecessors, and they have made the most of today's greatly enhanced production techniques.
As a result, the past decade has some incredibly polished and effective ads, maintaining the NBA's PR message ever since Jordan's debut: Our players are cool.
Let's count down the top 10 achievements in NBA advertising over the past decade, celebrating the most hilarious and heartfelt accomplishments of the league's brightest stars.
They make stars in today's NBA, and Kobe Bryant is just confirming it.
In presenting the moguls of the world with his newest sneaker, Bryant is half Steve Jobs, half motivational speaker and entirely himself. He lets his highlights and his pedigree do the talking, and his coarse charisma demands respect.
He flatters Richard Branson, he mocks Aziz Ansari and he concludes simply, "You're welcome." This ad's greatest strength is that his arrogance seems totally justified.
9. Hot Sauce
The NBA on ESPN commercials take the idea of these cool athletes and flips it on its head.
These are larger-than-life personalities doing mundane and awkward things. That's why they're so relatable and funny. Forget Carlos Boozer's lackluster defensive play; all that matters now is that the man is passionate about his hot sauce.
Watch this commercial once, and you're left more confused than amused. But this one grows on you. Boozer's principle, the stunned silence and Danilo Gallinari's flawless deadpan become the goofiest sort of fun.
We've seen NBA player puppets before, but Nike gave us a whole puppet world.
So there's a puppet Kobe Bryant and a puppet LeBron James, and they're roommates. If that concept weren't ridiculous enough already, this commercial throws in some hysterical banter on top of it.
As puppet Kobe ineffectually chomps on chocolate chip cookies and puppet LeBron tries to focus on his video game, you lose track of what this ad is selling until the swoosh appears at the end. It's debatable whether that is good for Nike, but it's definitely entertaining for the viewer.
7. Kobe Bryant Is the Black Mamba
The long-form commercial is a new advent to the advertising game, and it's given companies and players that much more space to display their creativity.
Here we have Nike and Kobe Bryant again, but we also have director Robert Rodriguez and an insane pitch for a Black Mamba exploitation film. Kobe turns on the swagger as he walks past explosions and spars with Kanye West and his minions, all in the name of selling shoes.
This story could not be told in a 30-second spot. The ambition to tell the story still makes it great.
6. Shaq Playing Scrabble
So if NBA on ESPN does its best work by poking fun at ordinary situations, of course Shaquille O'Neal is going to get involved.
There's nothing complicated going on in this ad. Shaq just turns on the charm and lays down his letters, but that's all he has to do to get laughs. Watching the big man school Mike Breen and Stuart Scott at Scrabble is a joy, and seeing him crammed into the tiny RV booth only makes it better.
Sometimes all you need to do is take a personality like Shaq and let it play out onscreen. ESPN makes the right call here and plays it simple.
5. Impossible Is Nothing
Hey, remember when Tracy McGrady was really good at basketball?
McGrady's reputation was unfortunately left back in the mid-2000s, but we have his stellar stats and highlights to remind us of his All-Star play. Thankfully, we also have this commercial to remind us that there were few guys cooler than T-Mac.
As choppers are mobilized and commandos descend, McGrady truly cannot be stopped. Watching his emphatic dunk would have been exciting enough on its own. Throwing down the jam with a small army trying to stop him is downright awesome.
4. Meet the LeBrons
Before LeBron James made "The Decision," he was arguably the league's greatest comedian.
This ad is a tour de force by LeBron. He's outstanding as his Pops persona (SportsCenter's Neil Everett still wants you to stop looking at his lemonade), absurd as a big-headed small child and a mix of both as an afro'd playboy.
The years have weathered LeBron to the point where this kind of silly performance would be a pleasant surprise nowadays. It's nice to remember how much we all loved him before we all hated him.
3. Uncle Drew
Kyrie Irving and Pepsi came out of nowhere with Uncle Drew, and it was a revelation.
The 20-year-old Irving wrote, directed and starred in this commercial himself, boldly proclaiming himself the next in a line of inspired stars. Clearly, everyone is in on the act (nice Pepsi Max placement in the cheering crowd), but Irving is still astonishingly convincing as a creaky old man back running with the youngbloods again.
It's just a matter of exposure that divides the very good players from the household names. After the success of this ad and its sequel, a lot more people know who Kyrie Irving is.
2. Where Amazing Happens
Every fan has dreamed of winning a ring. This postseason spot taps into that fantasy beautifully.
There's something for everyone in this commercial. Such is the nature of the ensemble cast. "We all want respect," the faces of the league say, and any given viewer is bound to root for someone in the chorus of players.
The piano score and the determined looks are a perfect match, carrying through to the final tableau of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett side by side. You don't have to like either player to get the message: It's the playoffs, and everyone is going to give their all for a shot at a title.
1. Let Your Game Speak
There might not ever be an NBA commercial that can touch this one.
Everyone's seen the iconic Michael Jordan highlights, and everyone has stuck their tongue out going up for a layup, trying to be like Mike. To see the synthesis of the two ordinary kids recreating these extraordinary moments so perfectly is just breathtaking.
In the end, there's MJ, proudly nodding his approval of all he's inspired. The NBA's greatest star became the role model for the next generation.