Throughout the history of the NBA, there have been a lot of advertising campaigns, both to promote the NBA and other brands. While some are iconic and will live on in NBA immortality forever (Be Like Mike), others rose to popularity simply because of how funny they were, or how people had never seen anything like them. Today, we’re looking at five of the funniest ads corporations have ever produced that feature NBA players.
#5: Lil Penny
If you were a fan of the Orlando Magic in the early to mid 1990s, you knew who Lil Penny was. Anfernee Hardaway, better known as Penny Hardaway, was one of the faces of the Orlando Magic, and Shaquille O’Neal‘s star teammate. Together the team would go on to reach the 1995 NBA Finals, and they would both become stars off the court as well. While Shaq acted in many movies, Hardaway’s claim to fame was Lil Penny, a trash talking puppet who was beloved by all. Lil Penny was in many commercials besides the video above, and I highly suggest checking them out on YouTube (and buying a pair of Air Pennys). Unfortunately, Lil Penny had a tragic fall, as in a commercial, O’Neal knocked Lil Penny off a couch, in part to show his distaste for Hardaway being considered his equal and no longer his sidekick. Hardaway was so mad about what O’Neal did on TV that he didn’t talk to him for a week. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that soon after O’Neal signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
#4: The Magic vs Larry Commercial
This 1986 commercial was short and sweet, but perfectly marketed two Converse shoes, the Bird shoe and the Magic shoe. The commercial opens up with a car driving past a corn field (the man who owned the corn field got paid a few thousand dollars for his field to be in the commercial), and then the car lowers the window. Bird stands nearby the car, a scowl on his face. Magic rolls down the window, and proceeds to tell Bird that while Converse made him a shoe for winning last year’s MVP award, he has a shoe for “this year’s MVP!” The commercial would end with the announcer saying, “The Bird Shoe. The Magic shoe. Choose your weapon. From converse.” This ad was short and sweet, although inaccurate, because in 1986, Bird would win MVP once again (his third in a row and last of his career) and win the NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets and Hakeem Olajuwon. This ad is also where Bird and Magic first became friends, and actually got to know one another. So, it’s iconic for more than one reason.
#3: The Insane Horse Game
In this McDonalds commercial, Michael Jordan comes into a gym, where Larry Bird is practicing, with a bag of McDonalds, containing a Big Mac and fries. Bird is immediately drawn to it, and offers to play Jordan in a game of horse for it. Jordan, being the man who can never reject a challenge or chance to gamble, accepts, and their shots become more and more outlandish, until they are standing on top of a multi-story building and still throwing the ball through an open window and into the hoop. While looking back, it’s a little bit corny, but it’s still iconic and will be one of the funniest commercials from the 1990s.
#2: Jingle Hoops
Jingle Hoops was one of the funniest ads the NBA has come out with. This ad was made to promote special NBA Christmas jerseys in 2013, and featured MVPs Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Steve Nash, and LeBron James. The first five players proceed to make three after three, and since each of the nets on five hoops have bells, they are able to play the song Jingle Bells by making a ridiculous amount of threes (77 total points). James capped off the commercial by catching an alley-oop and throwing down the last note with an exclamation point, followed by him saying, “Please tell me the camera was on.” Chances are when he said this he wasn’t trying to troll the FlightReacts as he did in 2020, because in November of 2013, FlightReacts YouTube channel was five months old.
One year ago, a fan made a parody of Jingle Hoops by taking some of the worst three point shooters in the NBA (at the time) and having them jingle the bells by missing every shot they took.
#1: NBA Lane
NBA Lane is a promotional event for the 75th anniversary of the NBA. Throughout that time, there have been dozens of superstars, and lots of them are featured in this promotion. It feels like everything and every player that should be in here is there, with the exception of Michael Jordan. You have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar teaching his skyhook, Dwyane Wade showing whose house it is, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as neighbors, Zion Williamson breaking a rim, Zach LaVine throwing down a windmill dunk, Gary Payton stopping a bus with his bare hands, players such as Trae Young, Manu Ginobli, Dirk Nowitzki, Donovan Mitchell, Bill Walton, Oscar Robertson, Chris Paul, Dikembe Mutombo, Julius Erving, Grant Hill, Patrick Ewing, Ray Allen, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, Jerry West, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Isiah Thomas, Carmelo Anthony, LaMelo Ball covering the Bulls’ mascot’s eyes while playing a video game, and much, much more (Lil Penny even makes a cameo!) This is truly a trip down memory lane, and it’s no surprise to me that it’s accumulated over half a million views in two days time. This perfectly encompasses the NBA, and I loved watching every second of it. It got me very excited for this season, and I can’t wait until October 19th, when the 75th season will officially kick off.
Which of these ads was your favorite? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!