NBA Talking Points: Who's Up For Some Week 1 Power Rankings (Of NBA Commercials)?


The NBA season is a week old, but it's still too early to judge what team's are for real, and what's a fluke. So instead of over-analyzing things, why not just go full-on frivolous for now? Power rankings for NBA Commercials, you say? Let's do it.

The new season is upon us, and that can only mean one thing. Or two, actually.

1. It's too early to gauge which teams are for real and what's a first-week aberration.

2. We have a ton of new commercials to enjoy!

And as a public service, I thought I'd spare you the overreaction after Week 1 and organize all these ridiculous commercials in one place. Because it's too early to dig in back into big picture analysis. For that, look at the East and West previews from last week, or check out my review of this past weekend's games.

So, absent analysis, we have aesthetics! Let's rank the newest submissions from the art departments of corporate America. We begin with the dreaded "viral" campaign from Nike.

11. Kevin Durant Has A Stalker, And He's Good With iMovie (Nike)

Analysis! It's never good when you can't tell whether it's a commercial or not. I guess for the purposes of viral marketing, that's sort of the point, but if we want to get all conceptual with it, if you watch a video that's bizarre and inexplicable, then you find out it's all marketing ploy, that just makes you resent it MORE. And that's exactly how I feel about this campaign.

Do we really need stalker footage of Kevin Durant doing everyday activities like taking out the trash, helping movers and talking to his neighbors? "He's just like us!" the videos say.

Except he makes millions of dollars, he's 6'10 and he lives out the wildest dreams from my childhood on a nightly basis. KD's awesome, but if Nike is seriously going to try and market him as some basketball Everyman, it'll be hard to hold back the resentment. Especially if the campaigns are as crappy and transparent as this one.

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 1.6 out of 10

10. J-Smoove Shaves His Legs, Which Is Kinda Gross To Think About (Dick's Sporting Goods)

Analysis! First of all, there's nothing funnier than hearing a white guy call Josh Smith "J-Smoove." It's probably my favorite part of Josh Smith's NBA career so far. That nickname has forced so many white people to awkwardly blurt out "Smoove" and pretend its natural.

Try it right now. Guarantee you'll feel ridiculous. It's just an awkward word to say out loud. For black people, too, but especially for old white announcers. Anyway, after the initial awkwardness brought about by the talk of J-Smoove, we cut to... Josh Smith shaving his legs? And then, as Josh Smith rubs his freshly shaved legs, we hear the voiceover, "He makes himself faster by eliminating anything that can slow him down." ... And they mean anything

So, yeah: We might have to call the pause police on this one, Dick's Sporting Goods. I think I speak for America when I say we don't want to think about NBA players shaving their bodies.

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 3.33 out of 10

9. Dwyane Wade Is James Bond. Or Batman. Or Something. (Jordan)

Analysis: Hey, I like a good Christopher Nolan movie too, but this was just lame. Chalk it up to a failed experiment, I guess. Jordan Brand usually kills with their commercials, but in order to have a catalog of memorable ads, sometimes you have to have to some memorable failures. Michael Jordan taught me that, actually.

But Dwyane Wade flying through the air and skidding under oil trucks and answering to Kevin Hart, asking questions like, "How did YOU get the king to the royal court?" Eh, that's pretty weak.

Also deducting points because Jordan Brand clearly spent a ton of money to produce this, and it came out this incoherent. Is Wade a Superhero? The NBA's James Bond? I think "Operation Capture the Rings" should be aborted ASAP. Want to sell shoes? Just show pictures of Wade next to Gabrielle Union, partying with Puffy on South Beach, then playing basketball with Obama the next day. His real life is like 97 percent as cool as this strange fantasy concocted by Jordan Brand.

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 4.02 out of 10

8. NBA Players With Giant Heads Doing Random Offseason Activites (NBA)

Analysis: The NBA has long had some of the best commercials around. So we're grading on a curve here. It's not that their latest effort is really that terrible, but... come on! There's more anticipation for this year than any season in the last decade. The Miami Heat have divided basketball fans everywhere, and the whole season feels like a shakespearean drama waiting to play out before our eyes. Will traitorous King James take the throne, will the Lakers stave them off or will the Chosen One (Durant) rise to defeat them all? Or the Celtics, old and gray, but valiant to the bitter end?

Anyway, the NBA went with a children's comedy instead, putting gigantic heads of NBA stars on people jet skiing, training, and in one memorable sequence that involved a grimacing Yao Ming, doing pushups. It's goofy. And goofy's okay, I guess. But chill-inducing would have better. Instead of Where Amazing Happens we got the 2010 equivalent of that weird bus tour commercial. This season deserved better.

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 5.37 out of 10

7. Is That Karl Malone Or Jimmy Kimmel's Parody Of Karl Malone? (Skechers)

Analysis: Karl Malone has apparently evolved into a carbon copy of Jimmy Kimmel's parody of him, and that's fantastic. Put him in every commercial ever, then.

It's like Skechers said to themselves, "If we try to seriously sell these shoes, we'll look ridiculous. So why not look ridiculous anyway? And maybe sell some shoes?" Excellent. Doesn't mean we need to buy Skechers Shape-Ups anytime soon, but the Malone-Kareem marketing duo seems to fit that product perfectly.

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 6.3 out of 10

6. Derrick Rose And Dwight Howard With The Asian Mars Blackmon (Adidas)

Analysis: So hard to judge these. Do we applaud them for recognizing the genius of Ken Jeong? Or do we penalize them for squandering said genius, basically turning him into a shrill sideshow? I mean, he's always a shrill sideshow, but usually it's funnier than this.

In any case, the ads sort of work in that they're entertaining—watching Ken Jeong dance around in a gold jumpsuit will always make me smile. But the writing falls pretty flat, and after the initial sight gag we're left asking, "What the hell is happening here?"

Fast Don't Lie, I guess. Like Ball Don't Lie, but complete nonsense. Right? That's what they're going for here? It's confusing. I'm confused. Why not just have Ken Jeong courtside and heckling the superstars during a game of one-on-one? I bet Ken Jeong would be an outstanding heckler. Like Spike Lee, but louder, more ridiculous, and with a tiny... Well, you know.

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 6.42 out of 10

5. ESPN Makes NBA Commercials, Because Jeff Van Gundy's Hilarious (ESPN)

Analysis: These ads have become an annual tradition, and this year's no different: they're pretty great. The Amare Stoudemire seat adjustment is also a winner. The formula here is simple, of course: Involve Jeff Van Gundy, Superstar X, a cartoonish RV, and make a one-note joke. We will laugh. Every. Single. Time.

Hopefully these continue all year long. Maybe there's nothing earth-shattering happening here, but they're so much better than ESPN's Fantasy Basketball commercials, which were irrelevant enough to not even make this list. And if Stan Van Gundy ever gets fired in Orlando, here's to hoping that ESPN gives the Van Gundys their own studio show one day. I would watch the Van Gundy hour, and so would you.

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 8.00 out of 10

4. "Brandon Jennings Looks Cool ... BRAHHHHHM ... Under Armour" (Under Armour)

Analysis: Literally that's the concept. "Hey, Brandon Jennings, go attempt a lay-up, and we're going to set it to the music from Inception." Boom... There's your commercial. Simple, but perfect. Short (15 seconds), but sweet.

And it works, of course. Because the music from Inception can even make Harry Potter seem bad ass. Someone who's actually cool and badass, like Brandon Jennings? It's too easy. That's what Jordan Brand didn't understand about Dwyane Wade: when an athlete naturally looks cooler than anyone else in the room, you don't have to put him in a tuxedo and fly him through space. Just get the rights to some Hans Zimmer music, dim the lights and tell him to go shoot threes or something. It can't fail.

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 8.72 out of 10

3. Because TNT Always Gets It Right (TNT)

Analysis: Not sure if this is technically a commercial or merely an intro to the 2010-11 NBA season, but it's getting included because it's exactly what the NBA should have done instead of those bizarre gigantic heads. Didn't you get chills when every player said their city? A little bit?

It's sappy and ridiculous, but that's what we love. Some melodramatic music, and superstars talking about how much they love basketball and care about winning. Sure, that's not how it is in real life, but when Chris Paul says he's playing for the entire city of New Orleans, we don't say, "Wait, are we supposed to forget that you demanded a trade eight weeks ago?" We think to ourselves, God, basketball is so much more than just a game. It's woven into entire cities, connected by a league of superstars, each clamoring to etch their name into history bring us along for the ride.

Even if that's not true at all and we're worshiping a bunch of overprivileged genetic accidents—the truth is somewhere in between, probably—that's how we like to think of the NBA, isn't it?

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 9.3 out of 10

2. LeBron James Doesn't Care What You Think. Or Does He?! (Nike)

Analysis: Oh, whatever. So many people have slobbered over this commercial (or slaughtered the ideology underpinning it), we don't even need to say much. It's ubiquitous enough to have inspired spoofs, even. Here's Dan Patrick's take, but I liked Michelle Beadle's better because I want to marry Michelle Beadle someday.

The ad's incredibly well done for visual standpoint, and it takes a complex, nuanced situation and extracts the single question that favors LeBron most ("Was America asking him to conform to a stereotype he never embodied to begin with?"). And I still hate LeBron James. Great commercial, but every time I see it, I can't help but think, "God, will you just GO AWAY?"

And for the record, I'm with Tom Scocca on this one: "The only criticism the commercial doesn't anticipate or outflank is the criticism that James is only able to relate to the public through a television commercial. 'What should I do?' he asks the viewer, over and over, as if the original TV special in which he announced his decision had been forced on him, as if the public had rudely violated his private decision-making process against his will. What should I do? James never asked the public that question, and he isn't asking now. He asked Nike. Do this fake-self-aware rebranding campaign, Nike told him."

In fairness, though, the fake-self-aware rebranding campaign was awesome.

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 9.88 out of 10

1. Jim Jones, Dr. J, God, and The White Stripes: Your Argument Is Invalid (Converse)

Analysis: Sorry, but any commercial that pairs Jim Jones with Dr. J and the White Stripes earns the top spot in the Commercial Power Rankings. We don't have many rules, but that's one of them. 

And God Shammgod makes a cameo! And Kenny Anderson! And there's a shot of an empty barber shop, just because... Why the barber shop? If you have to ask the question, Jim Jones says you're not real enough to know the answer.

We have no idea what's happening here, but I love it, and every time it comes on TV, I'm immediately in a better mood. I want to go to whatever game has Jim Jones at center court, ready to toss a jump ball. And maybe—just out of respect for having involved God Shammgod and Jim Jones and the White Stripes in the same commercial—maybe I'll go out and buy some Converse next time I'm at  Foot Locker. Probably not, but I'll be tempted. That's the sign of a good commercial.

Completely Arbitrary Scientific Rating: 10 out of 10. Duh.

... And that's the list. We definitely left some out, so feel free to add your own in the comments. Except for any thoughts on the John Wall Reebok commercial, because the "Energy Drink For Your Feet" ad campaign simply doesn't exist. Hear me? It's not happening. And since we've spent so much time on commercials, here's an abbreviated Talking Points for the rest of the week.

If you'd like to read  a self-indulgent discussion of Joakim Noah vs. Al Horford, you can click here. Topics include Marisa Miller's iPod bikini, gratuitous Chris Bosh bashing, and what we want from an NBA big man in 2010. HEY NOW! More links:

And finally, courtesy of Marcel Mutoni, they just don't make commercials like they used to.

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