I’m not much of a sports fan, but I make an exception for NBA basketball and my Miami Heat. And while I’ve supported the team even through the period where their headliner was Brian Grant, things have started getting really exciting in the last year or so with the addition of Lebron James and Chris Bosh to the lineup and I’m paying more attention to the game than I can ever remember.
And then today I stumble on a commercial that the TNT network put together last month. If you don’t know too much about the NBA, it might be hard to appreciate this. It took me a couple seconds into the clip to register what they’d done.
For those who missed it, chose not to watch the video, or just don’t follow the NBA at all: every clip in the video was a merging of historical footage with contemporary players. In and of itself, this is a really cool idea: what kid hasn’t said to himself “well, what if Kobe Bryant played with Magic Johnson,” or “What if Dwight Howard was matched up against Wilt Chamberlain,” or some other pairing? Well, here we have a few dozen examples of that, visualized with real (albeit edited) video.
But the thing about the NBA is that it’s relatively young. Sure it’s easy to come up with pairings that will pull at the heartstrings when you talk about teams like the Lakers, the Celtics, or the Bulls: they had great teams 20-30 years ago, and they have great teams today. What’s really impressive with this video is how they managed to integrate newer franchises. What do you do with a team like the Thunder, who are one of the league’s top teams right now but have only existed for three years? What do you do with the Magic, whose historical star is better known for his work with the Lakers and who only just retired after last season? Or my own Heat: they’re currently the NBA’s biggest headlining team, but their foundational star, Alonzo Mourning, actually did play on the same Heat team as one of their current stars, Dwyane Wade, so where’s the hypothetical fantasy in that?
But they managed to integrate all three teams, plus others with thin histories, by integrating visual aesthetics so well that we don’t care about the uniform. Heck, they got a shot of Chris Paul in a Clippers uniform even though at the time of the video’s upload, he’d only been on the team for a week and change.
The whole thing is done really well, both technically and artistically. It gives respect to past greats while simultaneously reveling in the current league. And the chorus in the background just adds to that feeling. It’s sad to see great athletes fade and be replaced by younger athletes, but these clips let us pretend that great athletes never fade. That they live forever. That Blake Griffin can try to dunk over Hakeem Olajuwon. That Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzky can face off against each other in their primes.
That Michael Jordan can fist-bump Derrick Rose on the same court, wearing the same Bulls jersey.
It makes you wish it was all possible. And it makes you want to watch the current stars even closer, because you don’t want to miss their brief moment in the sun. The video takes two minutes to slowly distill us down to one single raw emotion: nostalgia.
Kinda makes you want to watch basketball, huh?