Sunday, March 30, 2008

Top 10 [Sports] Commercials of All-Time

Be honest. When Jason Richards of Davidson missed that desperation 30-footer at the end of the game, you died a little inside. The biggest star of March Madness is gone; and if history is correct, the Final Four and Championship Game will be anti-climatic. *Sigh* Well done, Mr. Curry. Well done.

But there's good news! While you're waiting for the Final Four to begin in nearly a week, you can watch Kevin Love throw outlet passes into the rim; watch the fan-made video for my current favorite song (despite it being a year old and a remake of an 80's Caucasian-loved song); or you can read my list of the top 10 sports commercials of all-time. The criteria is that they have to depict sports activity; and must have at least one professional athlete in it. So while it was tough, the Lebrons are not on the list. Although, this philosophical gem from Wise Lebron is a classic in itself.
(And yes, I will be biased to basketball/His Airness)

#10: Allen Iverson Teaches the Crossover

This series only has two videos, but the first one (poor quality) diagrams the move that transformed the NBA forever. The hesitation crossover, still once frowned on by basketball stiffs, is now taught worldwide in basketball camps. If anything, no one can deny AI's contribution to dribbling; even though it was taught to him by a teammate at Georgetown. The evolution move in the above video was quickly banned by Mr. Stern and The Boys, but the initial ad is the manifestation of a basketball move now essential to perimeter success. While it may not be impressive to look at now, everyone went out attempting to perfect his or her crossover dribble so it was respectable when compared to The Answer's.

#9: The "Joga Bonito" (Play Beautiful) Series

I'm not a huge fan of soccer, but I know sick moves when I see them. The video above is a compliation of the commercials Nike aired about three years ago. To me, the one spotlighting Ronaldinho is the best. The home video of him that his commercial is based on is the foundation of his legend in the soccer world. Legend has it that he scored 26 goals as a kid in an indoor soccer game. With the moves I've seen in the brief moments I've watched soccer; I believe it.

#8: Kobe Adidas Commerical With Sick Practice Dunks

Whenever I see this commercial, it always begs the question: Why is Kobe no longer in dunk contests? Whatever. Anyway, the dunks he attempts and nails were pre-Jason Richardson and J.R. Smith. You can tell how old this is because Kobe still sports that hideous mini-fro. The different dunks (in terms of if he can actually do them on a regulation rim) are: doubt it, yes, yes, yes, yes, no way in the history of human beings elevating above the rim.

#7: Jordan vs. Jordan

This commercial shows the eternal battle between the young, shinobi with limitless potential; pitted against his older, wiser self. What catches my eye the most is the incredible perfection—at 39 years old—of MJ's turnaround fadeaway. The trash talk (which people overlook when discussing #23) is great. Much better than the commercial after next on this list.

#6: The Penny Hardaway & Li'l Penny Series

The reason why the Li'l Penny series makes the cut and the Lebrons series doesn't is because most Penny commercials had him doing something basketball-related. The Lebrons only have one dunk contest in their series. And while there hasn't been anything that good since "Sanford & Son," it's not enough to qualify for this top 10. This was Penny Hardaway at his best. Before the microfracture knee surgery, when his athleticism and talent met at an incredible apex. Chris Rock as Li'l Penny was the perfect compliment to Hardaway's easy-going demeanor. This was the Dwyane Wade commercials before Dwyane Wade became a superhero. I hope for his sake that he doesn't suffer the same fate.

#5: Nike Sparq Training Series

I know this series is only one two and a half commercials deep, but this has the makings of a classic collection of ads. Not because of the number of athletes; but because of the sheer confusion some of the athletes create with their trash talk. For example, What does being quick have to do with smelling like french toast? And in the latest ad, outfielder Matt Holliday says that, "[His] strong apologizes for making your strong look like cottage cheese." Is this someone sort of Nike Jedi Mind Trick? Am I suppose to be intimidated...or distracted? Either way, I got strong all day.

#4: "Be Like Mike"

"Sometimes I dream...that he is me..." While most of us don't know the lyrics beyond that first line, the commercial still resonates with all of us. It was the one that cemented his Nike commercial legacy. It was the embodiment of all our hoop dreams. It let us be free to acknowledge His Airness as an icon, regardless of age. If I could be like Mike...

#3: Tiger Woods Amazing Golf Club Trick

For this 30 seconds, you see just how dominant Mr. Woods is at his sport. Granted, there are others that have done the same feat; but this was the first video of this to surface. And, well, it's Tiger.

#2: Nike Freestyle Basketball Commercial

This is the evolution that the AI crossover commercials had envisioned. Various NBA and streetball players showcasing there talents with the rock. From absurd handles of 6'10" guys (Lamar Odom), to the reason Jason Williams earned the name, "White Chocolate." The choreography of this commercial was so good, BET decided to frequent it on "Rap City: The Bassment." Insane handles.

#1: Air Jordan XVI Commercial featuring Mos Def, "Umi Says" as the theme.

This commercial didn't show much of His Airness; but the grace and swagger of MJ was on showcase nonetheless. At the end of the commercial, he enters the gym as if, like in professional reality, he's coming to save the day. It doesn't hurt that Mos's heavenly track (which, is about the uplifting of Black people) is the theme for this ad. "I ain't no perfect man. I'm tryna do the best that I can; with what it is I have..." just seems to be hypocritically correct. Most view Jordan as, "The perfect [basketball player]," and what it is he has is what those with hoop dreams aspire to attain.

So there you have it. Agree or agree to disagree—you decide. One thing that goes without denial is that whomever is in charge of Nike's commercial themes should be making more money than a pagan holiday.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Find Your Way, Mike Beasley

I took a break from writing about sports to do a little ventilation about my concerns with the television network/puppet show/new Legion of Doom that is Black Embarrassment Entertainment Television (I’m not done with that yet). I have so many ideas swirling around in my brainstorm clouds that I’ll probably be posting more frequently in the coming days and weeks. It’ll give me something to do while procrastinating on doing my homework developing about my first non-basketball post; and it’ll give you something to read if you’re dealing with anal fissures. […] <-- That’s the brief pause of me fighting back a little nausea. Or maybe something less disgusting; like sitting through 30 rounds of your baseball fantasy league's draft. To the note…

As a sports society, we’re constantly looking for the next superstar; specifically, the descendant of a previous celestial talent. For example, do I need to run down the list of NBA players that have been declared, “The Next MJ?” Let’s see: there’s Harold Miner, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, and a host of others that fall short of His Airness’ greatness. While AI and Kobe are the only lock Hall-of-Famers on this list, the reason why/how they came to be so is the subject of this note.

As I was checking the updated 2008 NBA mock draft, it reminded me of how fans/experts are looking to compare the up-and-coming prodigy to an established athletic shinobi that may be similar in technique (yes, I love the ninja/samurai culture). This brings me back to Kobe and AI. The reason why they were able to harness their transcendent talents is because each of them decided to find their own ways to compose melodies on the court. I’m sure that they, like most of us, watched that famous commercial in hopes of duplicating Jordan’s sound. But as they developed, they realized that they can take samples from His Airness and create wonderful basketball harmony. It’s similar to G.O.A.T. producer J Dilla taking this hit from the Isley Brothers; and creating this joint perfect for doing that romantic thing with that deserving someone.

This brings me to Michael Beasley. I hope whomever is his future coach will not try to mold him after a former/current player that he, “reminds them of.” See him through impartial lenses, and develop him accordingly. I started to think of a list of former players that are, “1-of-1.” That means none before it, none to come (word to Shawn Carter). So far, I’ve only come up with two people that I know that will never have their music duplicated.* One, obviously, is Michael Jordan. The other, at least to me, should also be obvious.

Oscar Robertson – Career: 25.7 ppg; 7.5 rpg; 9.5 apg

I know he’s before any of our times; but as a basketball purist, I pay respect to those that paved the way. Some people may see the rebounding stats and think that Jason Kidd does that on the daily. That’s not as true as you think, because when Magic Johnson came up with the term, “triple-double,” he was thinking about the Big O. Maybe you know of his one-of-one season of averaging said triple-double; but few realize he averaged that over his first five seasons. J-Kidd couldn’t dream of being as good a scorer as Robertson—without a three-point line. Oh, and those numbers are sort of deflated by his last four seasons in which he played with a young big man named Lew Alcindor.

I hope Mr. Beasley’s basketball growth isn’t stunted by some coach that tries to shape him in the image of someone else. Let Mike tryout several instrument combinations, then develop the one that he identifies as, “his own sheet of music.”


*If you can make the case for a former player that qualifies, then leave it in the comments.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Mamba vs. The King


After reading this article on FreeDarko, I decided I'd settle the debate once and for all. Kobe versus Lebron: Who ya got?

WAIT. If you think I'm going to really present my reasoning for this comparison, you must've forgotten what this blog is really about. I don't do a lot of sports analysis here at Fundamentally UnSound. I like to delve deeper into the why's, how's, theories, and philosophies that lie underneath the sports realm. So I'll talk about the argument itself; and why there'll never be a conclusion to this or any debates of its kind.

To summarize one of Krolik1157's points, professional athletes are deified. They allow us to witness things and events beyond life’s normalcy. Even pros themselves give their peers the same rarified reverence; so it’s a given for the, “fan” to do the same. However, because these demigods are fully human, the idea that a single person can perfectly dominate his or her field to the point that he or she is the universal truth is a ridiculous notion to me. Most people would acknowledge that Muhammad Ali is the greatest boxer of all time; but that’s my point. “Most” is not “all”; and “consensus” does not mean “everyone.” So, even though I believe with total conviction that Michael Jordan is the best basketball player ever; there’s someone, somewhere that doesn’t concur—to the point where their substantiations could possibly sway me to their position; or at least force me to, “agree to disagree.”

Different types of professional athletes appeal to different types of people. Some people prefer Kevin Garnett’s flash, flare, and unbridled emotion to Tim Duncan’s, well, winning. Like I said—using the last two sentences to stall and regain my train of thought—I’m going to show why it’s impossible for this debate to ever be 100% settled.

While sports allow us to observe the near-supernatural, it also tends to limit the length of time individuals sit atop the throne. For example, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal are the two most dominant basketball players since His Airness sank Utah in the 1998 Finals (man, I love that clip). Well, despite either Duncan or Shaq being in each NBA Finals (winning all but one title) since then—and being the main reason of their respective teams’ arrival there--they have three regular season MVPs between them. Dominance tends to become annoying, and everyone waits for the next revolution to come overthrow the ruler. This is why the Spurs continue to fly under that proverbial radar—and continue to accumulate the victories. This is why those who even remotely follow women’s college basketball forget how ridiculously impressive Courtney Paris’ record is. This disinterest with continuously great success comes with familiarity with the successful; but it also isn’t the only reason why Kobe versus Lebron will never be resolved…

In order for these kinds of debates to achieve timeless status, the two juxtaposed entities must either be radically similar; or radically different. The Kobe/Jordan debate is a product of the first qualification, while the Kobe/Lebron debate is product of the latter. On most occasions, the divisive line is drawn with racial ink/lead/chalk/paint/marker—which made it easy to compare Bird/Magic and Tiger/Nicklaus. With #24 versus #23, the debate is solely on their technique. It’s Kobe’s assassin-like precision against Lebron’s raw power. It’s Batman versus The Hulk. For you fans of third-person shooter video games, it’s Splinter Cell versus Grand Theft Auto. The reason for the intensity of the debaters is that we strive for finite answers—we want one of them to be universally number one. The reason it’ll never happen is that everyone’s math is different.

I’m not saying that there should be an understood, arithmetic truth. Intellectually sound debates are some of the best usages of social interaction. I’m saying that while you’re trying to convince that guy in the barbershop why Kobe’s better; there’s someone that can persuade you into becoming a true witness to Lebron.*



*For the record, it’s Kobe…