The 1992 United States Olympic men's basketball team, led by legends Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, represented more than arguably the greatest collection of athletic talent to ever take a playing surface or a critical stepping stone for basketball's ascent as a global sport.
More importantly for advertising executives, the Dream Team players proved their ability to hawk A-list products from Air Jordans and LA Gear Catapults to Pepsi soft drinks and Lays potato chips.
Prior to the early 1980s, when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird helped save the NBA from its tape-delay and drug-addled nightmares of the 1970s, elite companies looked elsewhere to find athletes and celebrities to promote their brands.
Take this commercial, for example. The 1973-74 Boston Celtics, who had just finished winning a championship over the Milwaukee Bucks, were relegated to dribbling basketballs through Bradlee's Department Store. Converse wasn't calling. Neither was Coca-Cola.
Thankfully for future NBA stars, the Dream Team players changed the basketball advertising landscape, thanks to a worldwide recognition that began in the 1980s and reached its apex with the 1992 Summer Olympics. However, they still proved their marketability by participating in commercials well after retirement.
The Dream Team's ads continue to broach pop culture into a fourth decade, ranging from the artistically brilliant to the nonsensically ludicrous. The 100 most memorable commercials (ranging from 1980 to today) can be found here, in a ranking down to one.
Like Scottie Pippen did in 1991, step through a time warp to see the results.
WRITER'S NOTE: Due to the large amount of videos on this slideshow, you may be seeing black squares in lieu of videos initially. However, they all should load quickly on most, if not all browsers.
First, here's a general guideline for the list.
1. Any commercial that a member of the Dream Team was in at any time is considered.
2. Each commercial needed to have some defining characteristic. In other words, boring commercials—like every single Michael Jordan Ballpark Franks ad (I'll put the over-under on production dollars spent for each commercial at $13)—don't make the cut.
3. Once those ads were weeded out, five categories of advertisements remained:
- PSA: Not counted in the original 100 list, since the producers' goals aren't to sell a person on a product or wow them with dazzling special effects or comedic value.
- Turrible (100-87): Paying homage to Sir Charles Barkley's pronunciation of the word "terrible," these ads are putrid, but you can't help but marvel at their miserable nature.
- Old School (86-74): Nothing wrong with the old school ads, as they're fun to look back upon, but they either weren't iconic enough to begin with and are too dated to stand up in 2011.
- So Bad, it's Good (73-61): These commercials are awful, yet amazing. Self-explanatory.
- The Top 60: Split into three categories of 20 commercials (60-41, 40-21, 20-1), these ads ranged from good to brilliant.
4. Ranking the top 60 involved answering a mixture of questions, as there was no strict guidelines here. How much effort went into the commercial? How creative was the ad? How effective was the selling point? Did the commercial make me laugh, or on the flipside, did it give me goosebumps? What was YouTube's opinion?
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Those are the rules, but first, a public service announcement.
What if I told you in 1989 that a member of the Bad Boy Pistons would one day implore citizens to live a vegetarian lifestyle? You'd probably slap me in the face for being stupid, and I wouldn't blame you.
John Salley is perhaps the best storyteller of our generation, though I'm not sure if I'm sold on giving up my meat-loving diet here.
Following this PSA are eight classic ads from Dream Team members.
The least effective PSA of all time, David Robinson was unsuccessful in his endeavor to have kids partake in alcohol-free proms and graduation ceremonies, as according to the Elias Sports Bureau, not one has been alcohol-free since Prohibition.
(On a side note, why the hell would any kid send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to find out how to throw non-alcoholic events? It's pretty easy: Don't serve alcohol. Done.)
"Socially, I was kind of a misfit (in high school)," David Robinson.
David, as a social misfit like myself, I call BS. No superstar basketball player has ever been a social misfit.
Still, the breathtaking chorus music here, coupled with the fact that Robinson is actually brilliant and one of America's finest citizens (see more evidence later about his musical talents), would convince me to stay in school.
If I saw this video though, I'd drop out and join the circus.
However, Patrick Ewing is such a boss that he could get away with a flat-top haircut/black blazer/librarian glasses combo during his prime.
Using the early 1990s trend of terrible music and gaudy flashing colors a bit too liberally here, coupled with a moronic saying no one ever used, this PSA probably failed as well. Plus, I can't take this ad seriously when Larry Johnson left UNLV early in the wake of a huge scandal. LJ, if you're telling me to say in school, at least practice what you preach. Thanks for the four-point play, though.
(Another side note: is that computer screen more or less than four inches?)
Did you ever think there would be a reason to put Chris Mullin and MC Hammer in the same sentence? Me neither.
This also features a much simpler time when it was socially acceptable to wear your hat backwards. I once did so in college and was asked if I was living in 1992. True story.
Staying in school is easy when you're Clyde Drexler and can fly down the court like a gazelle with hundreds of colleges calling your name, but I'd glad the Glide received some national attention here. Clyde received the fewest national offers from A-list companies, and it'd be unfortunate if that was the case because of a premature receding hairline.
Michael Jordan talks about getting cut from the varsity team here. For those who don't know, Jordan was a freshman at the time. You want to talk about embarrassment? I got my ass kicked when I was cut as a freshman from my freshman football team. Apparently 5'3" wide receivers were not highly sought after in the Long Island Catholic High School Athletic Association.
This brings up a serious discussion topic: How many 10-year-olds would it take to stop Michael Jordan in a game to 11? MJ dominates seven kids easily in this ad, so total guess here: 40.
You would need 10 kids to surround Michael once he receives the check, and then have 20 choking the area inside the three-point line. The other 10 can hang out around the three-point line and bother him if he averts the other 10 kids. Of those 40 kids, at least a couple must be basketball-savvy enough to avert Jordan's length after the check on offense, perhaps leading to an easy layup.
Friends don't let friends drive drunk, but real friends don't drive drunk friends home. Unlike this ad, it's much more fun to hide keys somewhere around the house or wrap your inebriated buddy's car in saran wrap and magnets instead.
These kids got to have Magic Johnson come to an assembly? The only two memorable assemblies I had were watching the eight-hour Jesus of Nazareth film over a three-day period (which cut the school days short) and having a rapping priest show us his recent music video after going on a rant about how he still thought Stephon Marbury would be good on the Knicks.
New York went 23-59 the next season, but hopefully that rapper's career took off. He certainly fulfilled an untapped niche in the music business.
Patrick Ewing (and the excellent Knick trainer Mike Saunders) make cameos in this ad, but scroll to the end and look at David Stern's youthful appearance, just three years into his NBA commissioner tenure. Do you feel old now?
OK, so I lied. We're ranking 102 commercials here, since I forgot about two "so bad it's good" classics at the 25th hour. However, 100 looks a lot better in a headline. Sue me.
Now that you know that it's coolin' to stay in school and avoid drugs and alcohol, let's get to the top 100. The first 16 ads are simply "turrible," like the talking basketball campaign from this year's NBA playoffs. Not even the criminally underrated Charlie Murphy could save a dumb idea.
What the hell is this? Only Sigmund Freud can decipher the thought process behind this LSD-induced nightmare.
This commercial is beyond terrible, unless you're impressed with cheesy jingles and professional basketball players dribbling between their legs and shooting reverse layups, but the most important part of the advertisements are the name tags at the beginning.
Keep in mind that Magic Johnson had just won the highest-watched college basketball game of all time and the NBA Finals in back-to-back years, but 7-Up still felt that he needed an introduction. Shows how far the NBA's popularity has gone in 30 years.
Look at Larry Bird work a serious sweat after that Mikan drill!
The most boring drill in the history of basketball symbolizes the most boring sports commercial ever.
Nothing against combovers and breakthrough heart research, but Larry Bird and this doctor have worse team chemistry than Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph did on the Knicks.
At least the third guy in this commercial can tell his grandkids that he was on an MRI slab in a nationally-syndicated commercial. I wonder if a "Guy on MRI table" credit is enough to merit an imdb.com profile.
Diet Pepsi decides to eschew any sort of subliminal messaging here, though its bluntness can overcome the cheesiness. If any ad symbolized the late 1980s, this might be it.
Hardee's decides to go with the sneaky comparison technique here. Does anyone ever believe a company when they produce an ad saying its product is much better in a certain area? You can fool anyone into believing a product is bigger (just go through food and pick the biggest pieces) or tastes better (just pay people to say so and/or cite a BS taste test). C'mon man.
Though with Hardee's out of business now, this ad clearly failed.
I'm perhaps too jaded, but I find little kids and animals to be the kisses of death in commercials. Kids are too annoying, and animals are too frequently a go-to move.
For the former, such was the case here, but holy hell, 20 Chicken McNuggets were $2.99 plus tax in 1997?
Bet it was all the rage to show up to the 1992-93 school year with one of these Dream Team jackets, alternating with Starter gear, of course.
Who thought it was a good idea to make Larry Bird look like a senior citizen in this advertisement? Gray v-neck button-downs, to the best of my knowledge, were never in style. I'm pretty sure my grandfather gave me one as a hand-me-down alongside an assortment of turtlenecks.
Also, Michael Cooper, I'm sure Larry Bird is shaking in his boat shoes since you're going to serve him rare steaks. As long as he doesn't die from food poisoning, he'll still go for 30 and 10 against you.
In case you didn't know what sport this video game was promoting after seeing Magic Johnson dribble a basketball, your friends at TradeWest decided to remind you with dazzling lighting effects on a spinning basketball three times.
Not an efficient use of time in a 30-second ad, but it's decisions like that which led to TradeWest's demise.
Not even the 1986 Boston Celtics, one of the greatest NBA teams ever assembled, could save Boston's Scotch 'n Sirloin from closing its doors five years later. If they hired Robert Parish as a waiter and had him bully patrons into buying the lobster every time (Patron: "I'd like the french onion soup." Parish: "LOBSTER!!!"), perhaps this place would still be alive today.
As it was, this Scotch 'n Sirloin is no more, so we're left with Larry Bird laughing at the ludicrousness of leading his team in a wave before his line.
Horribly unfunny commercial, as Clyde Drexler's agent strikes out again.
Still, I can relate to that couple trying to decipher whether that was Clyde Drexler, since I once spent 10 minutes trying to figure out if then-Sonics point guard Gary Payton was eating next to me at a New Jersey Applebee's.
Facts like "Gary Payton plays in Seattle" and "Gary Payton is from California" didn't strike me then.
For the second commercial, Larry Bird can't help but laugh. I'd do the same thing if I was asked to toss a towel into a basket from 10 feet away and call it a "tough shot."
How far has the world come since 1987? If you wanted NBA apparel then, you needed to buy an NBA catalog and then order your purchase over the phone, like an L&L Bean catalog. Now, I can have a authentic Carmelo Anthony jersey ready for order in two minutes.
"Life is a sport, drink it up." Is that the best 30 executives getting paid six figures sitting around a table on Madison Avenue could do? Easily the worst catch phrase on this list.
Aside from that, the ad is just bizarre. Thankfully for MJ, it's his only turrible commercial.
Former Milwaukee Bucks guard Sidney Moncrief was the personification of old school, with his smooth play and classic 1980s look. Here, we see him pitching the Boys and Girls Club.
The following 13 commercials may have held up when they were produced, but they're a little dated now. Still, it's fun to reminisce.
Did anyone ever keep collector's cups for more than a week in their cabinet? They'd be cool to have for a week, but they'd always find a way to the trash soon enough.
Sports collectors weren't buying these and placing them next to their Willie Mays or Joe Namath autographs in a collector's room, and apparently they aren't selling like hot cakes today either.
Did Patrick Ewing miss the second dunk on purpose? What's the point of him making the first dunk, blowing the second and making the third? If the concept here is "practice," shouldn't he miss the first two dunks and make the third?
Does anyone care about this oversight but me? No? Moving on.
Charles Barkley checks in as the second Dream Teamer to wear an ugly V-neck sweater on this list. He also happens to be a sports collector who does gather McDonald's cups in his man cave, as evidenced by this ad.
Don't worry, it gets much better for the Round Mound of Rebound soon.
This is an inaccurate portrayal of the Sixers-Celtics rivalry of the 1980s, because if this advertisement was accurate, Moses Malone would have (imagine this in a Johnny Most voice of gravel) COME UP FROM BEHIND AND BLINDSIDED HIM IN A REAL COWARDLY ACT! Those 76ers teammates seem cool with Larry Bird playing a prank on their star player.
Anyway, a joke falls flat here, but the best part is the video afterward.
Hard not to feel bad for James Worthy, as he is given a gym bag to identify himself to the public while he plays second banana to Michael Jordan in the commercial.
Apparently Worthy did not eat enough Wheaties either, as the Bulls beat the Lakers in five games during the 1991 NBA Finals, the year this ad was shot.
Michael Jordan doesn't need a bicycle or the powers of an alien to fly, but you knew that already. No special effects were needed in the making of this commercial.
Back when LA Gear was the third-leading sneaker on the market behind Nike and Reebok, it had Joe Montana and Karl Malone heavily promoting the product. Their influence could only go so far, as LA Gear died out before the 21st century.
Still, this commercial is a nice homage to a simpler time, when Joe Montana could get away with wearing a backwards hat and a nonsensically-patterned shirt that was probably hot in back in 1991.
By the way, doesn't Joe Montana look like Woody Harrelson in White Man Can't Jump here?
Magic Johnson is tall and Bill Shoemaker is short. Hilarious!
For those wondering, Bill Shoemaker was 4'11".
Larry Bird once wrote in his autobiography Drive that a company, which he did not name, wanted him to wear a tutu in a commercial. Bird, thankfully, never subjected himself to such degradation, but it was a bit surprising to see him lose a bet to ex-arch rival Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and go bald here.
Bonus points to Lays for an effective pitch, as its statement is true: You can't just have one. I tell myself that I'll only have one chip every time I go into the bag, and I'll have at least 25 without fail.
The first of many Mister Robinson's Neighborhood ads on this list, David Robinson's shows his musical talents to the world in a spot with classic pianist Rudolph Firkusny.
As Sports Illustrated showed, Robinson was brilliant, able to play the piano and the alto saxophone.
These commercials, a spin-off of the Pee-Wee Herman and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood shows, do not hold up to the previous Mister Robinson's Neighborhood ads from SNL, though.
One of the first commercials I remember as a kid. You have to love Reggie Miller rocking a turtleneck and Patrick Ewing polishing off a workout by clogging his arteries with some fries.
The greatest mystery never solved: Who the hell was the Wiz?
Nobody Beats the Wiz was an actual name for a chain of electronic stores in the New York-New Jersey area. Of course, Cablevision (inept owners of the Knicks and Rangers) bought the franchise in 1998, and the stores closed five years later. My jaw is still on the ground in shock.
Here, the starters for the 1993-94 Knicks take some time off from cracking skulls to show their Oscar-worthy acting skills.
As a prefix, this commercial appears during the middle of Game 5 of the Indiana-Boston playoff series from 1991, when Larry Bird went for 32 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes in a 124-121 win. More impressively, he did so after smacking his head on the Garden parquet.
Gary Payton makes his national debut here, cleaning David Robinson's sneakers with a toothbrush in the process. It's good for a few small laughs.
Blue Chips is a terrible movie, but if I see it on television, I'll stop and watch to the end.
Like Blue Chips, these 11 ads range from commercials that probably took 30 minutes and $10 to shoot to others that are downright disturbing, yet hilarious.
In the "so awkward, it's hilarious" category, Michael Jordan's Hanes ad places first.
Nothing else in this commercial matters apart from the sidekick, not even Barkley talking to The San Diego Chicken. OK, maybe that's pretty weird.
What the hell possessed someone to wear a oversized zebra-striped hat with a fake gold nose and spectacles? The mid-1990s was the end of a terrible string of fashion dating back to the late 1970s, with heroin chic and Zumba pants dominating clothing lines, but apparently Nike didn't get the memo that the world was trying to move past a shameful time.
I suppose Clyde Drexler wanted more publicity for his BBQ chain, since defunct unfortunately, so he acquiesced and did a commercial for a furniture chain in Houston. The V-Neck sweater count is now at three.
Ignore the beginning of the commercial and skip to Magic Johnson dropping a dime (literally) into the Slice coin slot.
I honestly think that's harder than half the shots in the Michael Jordan-Magic Johnson McDonald's HORSE ad.
Shooting a coin into the soda machine? Where did I just see this?
John Stockton's only appearance on this list. The NBA's all-time assist and steal leader takes advantage of his popularity post-Dream Team, combined with the popularity of the Pepsi-Ray Charles campaign, for this ad.
In between scripted squeaks, he actually strikes a deep note around the 10-second mark.
No special effects for Chris Mullin? No celebrities? Just a bunch of cameras as he shoots around the gym like he's done for decades? Mullin got screwed in his lone solo performance on this list.
Here, Magic Johnson and Converse try to give the viewing public a epileptic seizure with its ad of flashing lights and shaking frames.
Who is this token meathead bro sitting next to Magic Johnson?
Also, this is 1991. I think we can do better than the kiddie graphic of the flaming basketball here.
KFC, I will eat your popcorn chicken and biscuits meal on death row should I unfortunately be placed there, but this ad is ridiculous.
Just let your soul gloooooooooooow, just let it shine through. Just let your sooooooooooooooooooul glow!
Michael Jordan knows how to treat the ladies, but his agent pulled him aside and told him to never partake in a commercial like this again. And he didn't.
If CGI effects can evolve from freaking floating submarines to creating an alternate 3D universe in Avatar in 18 years, I'm pretty sure we can figure out how to solve the debt crisis by Friday.
Pulling a page from the Bill Simmons playbook, I know, but this ad needs a detailed breakdown:
0:01: "This sucks. Why the hell am I here? I better get three cars with digital clocks. Oh, the director wasn't smart enough to cut this part out. Damnit."
0:08: Larry Bird feigns thinking about how tall a Rodman is by actually looking up at the sky. Larry, your acting was akin to Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood during your cameos in Space Jamand Celtic Pride, but you're fooling no one here.
0:12: This was 1985. We can do better than a car appearing out of thin air.
0:13: A digital clock! Rear defrost! Bitchin' technology!
0:19: Did the director actually tell Larry Bird to look down at the invisible phone number?
0:20: STRAIGHT OUT!
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Remember, this is a professional basketball player in the midst of three straight MVP seasons. We've come a long way.
A few questions here:
1. What is that animal living on Larry Bird's head?
2. What is Mark Aguirre doing in this commercial?
3. Did we just see Kevin McHale rap?
4. Would NBA players today be caught dead doing this?
Finally, 60 high-quality NBA commercials. The 1990s New York Knicks, perennial runner-ups during the Patrick Ewing era, lead you into the first set of commercials that just missed the cut.
Bonus points for an effective slogan that's hammered throughout the ad, as I bet LA Gear actually convinced people that it had some built-in mechanism to make people jump an extra foot.
Again though, this is 1991, where cutting-edge technology in commercials involves basketballs morphing into submarines. Sneakers aren't magical, nor aren't they today. These guys are trying hard to fix that notion though.
Side Note: For those who followed the link, SI writer Chris Ballard can dunk? Woah!
What's this commercial trying to tell us? Buy Nike products if basketball is in your heart? You should practice all the time (in Nike gear) until your heart gives out?
Not sure, but bonus points for an interesting ad that essentially involved Michael Jordan, a basketball, an open gym, a beating heart sound effect and a camera with a zoom-in feature.
The punch line of David Stern giving David Robinson a signed photo is excellent, and Nike clearly tries to avert controversy with the Commish by having David Robinson say he is great. Granted, David Stern was on a roll in the early 1990s, though the intent of the line is obvious.
Otherwise, Nike does a solid job selling its other sneakers here prior to the ad's climax.
Our friend with a zebra-striped hat and gold nose is back, but now he has a zebra tie, gaudy gold necklaces and red-and-black striped pants!
Anyway, kudos to Nike for coming up with something relatively creative during Michael Jordan's retirement, but they nail it during MJ's baseball timeout with a Steve Martin ad in the top 10.
Dwyane "Pookie" Wade gets snubbed out of Charles Barkley's Fave Five in the first of numerous submissions from T-Mobile on this list.
If I was Charles Barkley, I'd make the same decision. Being named Pookie is an automatic demotion to the Fave 20, at least.
I have no idea what is going on here, but it's pretty cool. The commercial goes in four different directions in the span of 30 seconds, yet it somehow works even though seeing Scottie Pippen walk a tightrope with a stone-cold look on his face and an overcoat on was a bit out there.
A thought that hadn't occurred to me in 15 years just came by. When I was a much younger, much less bitter Knicks fan and watched this commercial, I remember being happy that Michael Jordan couldn't find a way down after dunking on a 1,000-foot hoop or whatever it was.
For all I knew, Jordan was immortal and ruined the Knicks' dreams of a championship, so I was happy to see him not think his plan through, albeit in commercial form.
As for this ad, it's pretty simple: Nike Air Jordans will make you fly, just not like Jordan. End scene.
Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee) makes his introduction to the list at No. 53. You'll see him a few more times.
Mars Blackmon was a central character in the movie She's Gotta Have It, a critically-acclaimed independent film that was Spike Lee's breakthrough film as a director.
Together with Michael Jordan, he created a series of spots for Air Jordans. This one is for Air Jordan III's, featuring a bunch of power slams from His Airness.
You know you're a star when the television show that you're a panelist on cuts to a commercial that you're featured in.
The Dwyane Wade/Charles Barkley T-Mobile ads all usually built up to one joke or gag, and this ad nails it again with the ring tone during Pookie's putt.
David Robinson's proves his meddle at the keyboard by playing some Beethoven while clowning some fools at the local Y.
His reference to Bo Jackson at the end of the commercial can be found in the top 20.
More evidence that David Robinson was designed in a laboratory somewhere: This 7'1", 235-pound behemoth excelled best in the transition game, as his former Spurs coach Larry Brown reminds us. In fact Robinson was more comfortable running the floor that posting up players down low.
This commercial makes the top 50 because Larry Brown is still the same loud and detail-obsessed coach he was in 1990 and hasn't changed whatsoever from the image seen here on television.
In a list featuring a nostalgic clash of styles through the decades, it's nice to know that some things never change.
Mars Blackmon gets schooled at his own game and is silenced by a scientist.
I'd try and explain this to you, but I studied sociology in college. Try Wikipedia if you're confused.
If only every commercial was as easy as shooting guys playing some pickup in the gym.
This ad is pretty effective, featuring four of the NBA's stars at the time, including a young Charles Barkley. Like the movie 300 makes you want to get up and punch someone in the mouth, this commercial makes you want to run at the Y for two hours...in your Nike Airs.
Here's an interesting fact: According to Sports Illustrated, Spike Lee did not like being associated with Mars Blackmon at all by 1991. In fact Lee was upset with writer Rick Reilly for broaching the idea of doing an SI interview in the Blackmon persona.
Can't blame him, as it seems Spike was recognized mainly for this character and not enough for his other accolades.
Little Richie makes a stop here as a genie, granting Mars Blackmon the power to become Michael Jordan. Another true fact: Spike Lee does not have a license. Such things aren't really necessary when you live in Brooklyn.
Scottie, you're trying to sell the American public that the new Right Guard sticks don't have flaky, white stuff, but those clear sticks never went on dry, leaving people with the wet stuff that they had to wipe off since they stained shirts.
Such shenanigans were revealed when Right Guard eventually sold people on sticks that went on dry.
One of two talking basketball commercials (the other being the Dr. J ad about his behind-the-backboard layup) that wasn't terrible.
If you get over the fact that Magic is being interviewed by a talking basketball, you can actually enjoy his perspective on one of the greatest moments in NBA history.
Gatorade goes avant garde. A highly effective and memorable tag line ("Is it in you?") is revealed through a motivational commercial featuring buckets of orange sweat rolling off Michael Jordan. Different, yet it worked.
Fail. A mid-30's Michael Jordan is clearly leaping only 14 feet away from the rim and not behind the free throw line. What a bum.
Michael Jordan tells everyone who may still be doubting him that he can make a free throw dunk and win MVP's and championship in his mid-30s. Game, set, match. Chalk up another motivational ad from Nike.
Once McDonald's realized Charles Barkley's marketability as a top-line superstar, they brought him on board for a sequel to the HORSE commercial from Super Bowl XXVII.
This ad kills a theme that was explored to its limit in the first commercial, so it loses some luster, but Sir Charles is good for some comedic relief.
It's odd to see Charles Barkley marketed as a young, feisty NBA superstar and a older, out-of-touch legend so soon after each other. You'll see more of Chuck struggling with video games soon enough, but the "Chuck pulled your hamstring" line (followed by Dwight Howard's reaction) is classic.
The second set of runners-up, introduced by a man who would have won the 1992-93 NBA title if not for this list's leading pitchman, Michael Jordan.
Charles Barkley appears on this next set of 20 a staggering nine time, so it's only appropriate to place a homage to his talents here.
"Don't be like a baby!"
Charles Barkley may star in this commercial, but Yao Ming steals the show with that line. Yao ranks as one of the most entertaining sports pitchmen in the last decade.
Making the list on a technicality, as none of the five players on the list acted to be part of the clip, but the Spalding ad is still pretty damn cool.
Charles Barkley plus all-white track suit plus treadmill equals comedy gold. Not the best T-Mobile ad on the list, but all of them were solid.
Paying homage to Mr. Robinson's Navy background in the beginning of the commercial and Charles Barkley's persona as the bad boy of the NBA before Dennis Rodman took over that role, this ad is a clash of the good and "bad" (more like edgy) of pro basketball, so Nike has its bases covered.
Let's get one thing straight here: The NBA threw Air Jordans out of the game because they had colors that did not align with their regulations, not because they were designed to make people jump an extra 10 feet in the air.
Still, Nike ate up the ban and sold the shoe to the public as an edgy product that was outlawed by the world's best basketball association. Here, you can see that all Nike needed to do in this add was shoot MJ from head to toe and throw in some black-box graphics for an effective piece.
Hence, the ban (Jordan still played with them, though Nike paid the fines), coupled with Michael Jordan's rise to stardom, catapulted the Air Jordans into the mainstream success it still is today.
Aside from the fact that the cartoon seems well ahead of its time (in a commercial, at least, since 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit? proved that cartoons had come a long way), the most interesting aspect here is that not all of the Dream Team members are featured. Of course, different players had different sponsors (e.g. Malone: LA Gear), so they all couldn't be featured in one ad.
First, David Robinson probably does not live in a house that small. Second, you have to love the boundaries conversation, as those were childhood staples of any kid who played sports growing up. Third, no man knows how many nutrients are in his shaving cream.
Not sure why I like this commercial so much; maybe because it's hard not to respect the hell out of those guys.
Scottie Pippen steps into Pleasantville with his Nike Air shoes as a guy with a too-shiny gold blazer narrates the scene.
The closing line probably isn't far off from what professional basketball players used to make in a year, back in an era when people had to play year-round or work two or three jobs to sustain families.
The first precursor to the American classic Space Jam deserves no worse than a runner-up spot. This was the first of two Michael Jordan/Bugs Bunny commercials prior to the 1996 hit's release.
Nike grew up a lot between Air Jordan II (this ad) and Air Jordan III (the beginning of the Mars Blackmon series). Here, Michael Jordan is still working his way out of cheesy commercials, before he grows into a motivational icon for a worldwide audience.
Seriously, how many ways can you shoot the same windmill dunk? Relax with the camera work, dude. Still, the ad gets bonus points for being a classic.
Give credit to Nike for trying something different and throwing Charles Barkley into an Italian opera. Barkley's well-rounded acting no doubt proved to future Hollywood executives that he could act, perhaps landing him in his supporting role in Space Jam.
It'll be a sad day when Dwyane Wade is no longer the young, bright superstar and instead plays the ex-veteran in these ads in 20 years. It feels a little weird to see Barkley subject himself to being an older "I can't connect with this generation" guy when I remember watching him with the Suns in the 1990s.
Still, the concept of playing as older stars when they're old is creative and coincidental since the 2K series started to do the same thing, except they still have the legends in their prime. Probably the best idea.
Charles Barkley clearly travels here on the way to the hole, so this doesn't make the top 20. For shame, because Godzilla putting on hot-pink sunglasses is a nice touch in a creative commercial.
One of Nike's last ads with Charles Barkley prior to his breakout season with the Phoenix Suns in 1992-93, a cartoon Chuck runs roughshod through the lane on the way to the hoop, symbolizing the destruction that was to come upon the NBA in one short year.
One of the Nike ads during Michael Jordan's tenure with the Washington Wizards, this summarizes MJ's career in brief snippets up until the end. Obviously, the answer to the commercial means that the end is nigh for Jordan, even though he's been playing every game like it's his last since his rookie season. Yet another motivational feather in the Nike cap for the Swoosh team.
Maybe this one makes the cut based on a technicality, as Michael Jordan is the narrator, but it's another Nike ad that gives you goosebumps. Nike is the only company out there that can do this on a consistent basis with their commercials.
No mention of the flaky white stuff here, as Charles Barkley is too busy mingling with the ladies as he hunts foxes.
But here, archaeologist Charles Barkley has enough time to remind everyone that the new and re-designed Right Guard does not have the flaky, white stuff, saying it with an antagonistic look.
Not that I would ever say it to Sir Charles' face, but dude, Right Guard left the flaky, white stuff on people's armpits for quite some time, so I don't know who you're shouting at.
So maybe Larry Bird doesn't act in this commercial, but he is the star, ironically. The excellent NBA ad campaign for the 2009 playoffs reached its apex with this one, and I'm not just saying this because I'm a bitter Knicks fan who likes seeing Isiah Thomas fail here.
Or maybe I am.
The last of the Charles Barkley/Dwyane Wade T-Mobile ads finally has Flash getting the best of his mentor with the funniest line of the list.
Michael Jordan appears in the top 20 a staggering 14 times. It only seems appropriate for the best basketball player to lace up sneakers.
Chris Farley shot ads for ESPN's College Basketball lineup? Predictably they are all hilarious, and he pretended to be Christian Laettner in one of them.
OFF THE GLASS!
Not a commercial? That's irrelevant. Space Jam is one of the greatest movies of our time, and it's a shame that the English Patient (seriously?) snubbed it for best picture at the 1996 Academy Awards.
Transitioning to an actual commercial, this ad was truly the predecessor to Space Jam, with Marvin the Martian playing the bad guy instead of the Monstars.
I don't think the Looney Tunes were on The Simpsons' level in terms of being able to reach out to adults and kids, but they were damn close.
Michael Jordan is in this commercial for one second, but that still makes it eligible for the list. However, while this commercial is an all-time classic, I can't seriously place it too high since Bo Jackson is the ad's protagonist.
The Air Jordan I commercial sneaks into the top 20. Simple, yet effective, this ad began Michael Jordan's legendary foray into people's living rooms for three decades.
Like the Bo Diddley commercial, minus points because Jordan isn't the primary focus of the ad, but damn if that isn't an inspirational commercial, I don't know what is.
As you can see, Patrick Ewing did not commit a charge because Ryan was moving his feet while in the restricted area, so he's left with bruised torso and ego.
"Show me what you GOT!"
Who are you taking in a game of one-on-one between Bird and Magic, up to 21, counting two-pointers? I have Bird, 21-17.
Spike Lee makes his return in a Michael Jordan commercial as himself, and herein lies the brilliance of the Michael Jordan brand. In case you haven't gotten the gist after all of Nike's commercials, Michael Jordan stands for more than himself in these ads—he stands for the every man or woman's perseverance to get to their athletic peaks. Unless another athlete comes around and becomes better than Jordan, he'll still pitch products until he can't walk.
YouTube doesn't have rights to the Vitamin Water ad, so here is a link.
Anyway, the ad is all right until Rick Pitino makes a surprise appearance as Christian Laettner's neighbor and calls him an a-hole. Nothing against Laettner and Duke (OK, maybe a little something against Laettner and Duke), but that was awesome.
For those scoring at home, Christian Laettner is on this list one time and doesn't even say one word in his ad. Yet he still makes the top 12. Not too shabby.
This one threw you for a loop when you first saw it, right? Still, this is thinking outside the box, especially not long after Michael Jordan climbed a mountain to seek wisdom from a random monk not too long before this one.
Notice the two homages to the Gatorade sweat commercial, both in the middle and end.
I told myself I had to make the Kilroy two-parter top 10 as soon as I saw it. Nike found a way to continue marketing Jordan in a creative way during his days with the Birmingham Barons, and they even got Steve Martin involved in a mystery thriller sort-of deal.
By the way, who is the athlete between David Robinson and Michael Irvin? Is that Baby Jordan, Harold Miner? It's bothering me.
One of the most repeated tag lines in commercial history, "It's gotta be the shoes!" is outdone by the fake Nike disclaimer at the end. Nice touch.
I sound like a broken record, but here's yet another article where the Jordan brand pushes the same "hard-work" themes that have become associated with MJ well after his career has ended. Where Nike is so successful is in making beautiful ads that push these themes and motivate people time and time again to better themselves (and buy more Nike products).
The catch phrase that spawned a couple movies (Like Mike and its sequel) was iconic in the early 1990s and launched Gatorade to the next level after the Bulls' first championship in 1991.
My guess is that Nike pulled the "motivational" page from Gatorade's playbook, hammering those themes down with more serious commercials in the 1990s as opposed to the light-hearted tone of the Mars Blackmon ads of the 1980s and briefly into the next decade.
Mars Blackmon's last appearance on this list. I don't know why this commercial get me every time, but the slow pan down to Michael Jordan and the ferocious dunk are the best touches in the greatest Mars Blackmon ad.
If you can get over the shock of seeing Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in their old jerseys, you still won't get over the shock of seeing a commercial that freezes you in time.
The two-faced 2008 playoff campaign was a bit goofy in its appearance, but the message was a great homage to the NBA's rich history.
First, why the hell would Michael Jordan take this bet? He already paid the $5 for his Big Mac combo meal, so he has nothing to win! Second, why can't Bird drive five minutes to the nearest McDonald's, get a combo meal and put it on the table against Jordan's meal? Third, what the hell is Jordan wearing? Even though the sartorial choices of many people in 1993 were highly questionable, only Jordan could get away with that combination. Fourth, if they're playing for Jordan's Big Mac, why can't MJ dunk? Bird chickened out here.
In all seriousness, this ad is brilliant and still gets talked about 18 years later as one of the best Super Bowl ads of all time.
And your YouTube winner for the best Dream Team advertisement is this one, with 7,468 likes, 110dislikes and almost four million views as of this writing.
This Knicks fan only saw Jordan's Bulls fail epicly once, when New York blew out the infallible 1996 Bulls 104-72 at the Garden. MJ still ended up with 32 and eight, so I'm not even sure if that counts.
Despite the semi-true nature of this commercial, Michael Jordan could turn anything into motivation and play at a level no one else could dream of achieving.
Aside from the fact that what Charles Barkley says is 100 percent truthful, this advertisement caused a lot of debate in the early 1990s. Perhaps that was Nike's point, and if it was, they succeeded with flying colors. Every sports fan knows about the "role model" ad, which speaks to its effectiveness to this day.
I've written over 7,500 words and don't need to type one more to explain why this is No. 1.