Archive for the ‘Power Rankings of No Consequence To Anybody’ Category

The Five Best LeBron Ads IN THE HISTORY OF THE KNOWN UNIVERSE

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

The other day, WFNY posted something regarding Nike’s first LeBron James-centric advertisement. It was well done, but made me realize how bad that ad was. LeBron’s had some great ads made about him over the years, and so, in tribute to this, it’s time to assemble a subjective list of the five best LeBron ads so far. A lot of sites have been making “best of the decade” lists over the past few months, but I’ve decided to step it up and make a list of the five best LeBron ads in the history of life, human history, and the history of all sentient beings. Without Futher ado:

5. Powerade: LeBron Making Full-Court Shots

They ruined the magic a bit by making this derivative of their Michael Vick ad, but this was still a pretty awesome commercial. Bonus points if you thought this was real, even for a split-second.

4. Nike, “The Chalk”

This is a beautiful ad, plain and simple. The black-and-white photography, the amazing music selection, the way LeBron seems larger than life, the way that he seems accessible through to everyone who loves him through this frankly silly pre-game ritual. This is taking a trademark and making it into something that will truly be remembered. Also, this is why Nike is Nike and your company isn’t.

3. The LeBrons, “Dunk Contest”

This makes the list for one reason and one reason only; Business LeBron saying “Dunk contests are bourgeois” at the end of the ad. Freedarko tried to wrestle with the possible meanings of this statement around the time it happened, but after a few years it still remains deliciously opaque. Was business LeBron stating his love for dunk contests by calling them bourgeois, as he clearly identifies with that class? Was BL simply being clueless, and dismissing dunk contests while inadvertently signaling his own lack of self-awareness?

Is he saying that kid LeBron failed to correctly appreciate his flashier dunk, because dunk contests can only be properly appreciated by the bourgeois? Is BL simply trying to use a word he doesn’t understand? And how does the “real” LeBron identify with this statement, as someone who’s both tried to hang onto his home-town roots and become buddies with Warren Buffet? This statement makes LeBron’s 2010 feelings seem easy to read. I’m convinced Lady Gaga wrote the last line of this ad.

2. Nike, “We Are All Witnesses”

Again, I have failed you. I tried really hard to find the original “Witness” ad campaigns from the 2006 playoff run. Either the first one before the playoffs or the one re-edited to show LeBron’s game-winning layup against the Wizards would have worked. Alas, the best I can do is this one, which has zero predictive power and doesn’t have any shots of Cleveland fans getting into the LeBron hype, painting their faces, and actually being witnesses, which is what made the original set of ads so special. Hopefully you guys remember the real Witness ads from back in the day, and know why it’s become such a perfect campaign for LeBron. And if anyone can find that, please let me know so I can post it and give the original its proper due. It’s johnkrolik@gmail.com.

Update: Commenter “jcm” came through big-time and found the original. Man, this ad was even cooler than I remembered. There’s a very good argument this should’ve been number one.

1. Nike, “The Book of Dimes”

Not the most iconic LeBron ad by any stretch of the imagination. But in my opinion, it’s the best one. Why? An A+ performance from the late, great, Bernie Mac. A genuinely fun ad. Cameos from Dr. J and Jerry West. A catchy tune.

But you know the real reason I’m going with this one? Because it was from LeBron’s rookie year. He had those plain, ugly shoes. He was pure potential. He was 18 years old. Nobody was putting him next to the Kobes, Shaqs, or T-Macs of the world yet. He was free to be a phenom. Free to have potential. Free to be fun to dream on. He wasn’t being scrutinized, not having his skills and weaknesses broken down skill-by-skill alongside some of the best players ever to play the game.

Now, every pass LeBron makes is an easy shot he could have made if he’d worked harder. Every deep jumper is him giving up on a drive or post-up. “He’s still 25″ still gets thrown around, but since LeBron’s third year in the league, he hasn’t been allowed to be a cool young player. And really, he was too good to have a cult following by his second year. And now that I think about it, his rookie year was all about Carmel0/LeBron noise.

There wasn’t much time when LeBron was fun, was potential incarnate, could be someone you loved without having to take a significant stake in him. He was brimming with possibility, and one of the fun possibilities was that he’d become a better passer than a scorer, and turn the court into his personal playground in a way nobody since Magic had. Maybe he would use all those athletic gifts and resist what he was supposed to be, what he really always had to be, and just become a team-first passer trying to make the game easier for all of his teammates, would never have to be compared to Jordan or even Kobe, wouldn’t have to worry about being the greatest ever. He’d just mesh with his teammates and make the game sing to him.

Things didn’t work out that way, and I’m not complaining; he was always too talented to be anything other than a great scorer first and a passer secon. But I miss this unburdened side of LeBron, or at least LeBron’s public image. He was 6-8, athletic as all heck, and he wanted to pass and make the game fun, and he didn’t care what that meant. He was someone to dream about, not fight about. His gifts were to be appreciated, not scrutinized. LeBron grew up too fast, but there were a few moments in there where we could imagine him dishing between-the-legs passes to guys on trampolines and not wonder how good he could be if he learned how to make up-and-under moves on a trampoline. This wasn’t “You want to be better than me.” This was “It’s fun to be me.”

Honorable Mention was this ad, which I couldn’t in good faith call a LeBron ad, and had no real message, but was still incredibly cool:

And for one last thing, here’s the best basketball ad of the decade. And there is no second place. If there was any doubt, it got erased when they had a kid with a headband mimic Cliff Robinson during the “shrug.” Until tomorrow.

Okay, I just got goosebumps. That’s how you make an ad.

Let’s Make A Reading List, Part 2: The Highly Recommended

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Alright. Sorry I’ve been out the past few days; my life is insane, and I was also avoiding you guys after the most awkward-situation creating game ever on Saturday. Fun times. So anyways, in lieu of actual news or analysis, here are more books that I like.

The Blind Side, Michael Lewis

I left this off my first list because Moneyball was an absolute must-include, and for some reason I didn’t want to put two books by the same author on the first list. But rest assured, this is an absolute masterpiece-in a lot of ways, it’s even better than Moneyball.

There’s not much about this book that isn’t absolutely stunning. (Disclaimer-it is about football, and this is a basketball-centric list.) Even still, it’s a masterful description on the evolution of the modern game from a vantage point that hasn’t gotten much play-the importance of the offensive line, in particular the left tackle position, in the adaptation of football from a running/deep passing-type game to the “West-coast offense,” passing-centric offensive model that almost every current offense operates under. And the anecdotes in that regard are amazing-the Lawrence Taylor intro alone would be one of the best sportswriting pieces of the decade.

And then, past that, The Blind Side goes past football into an absolutely amazing case study of Michael Oher, the ridiculously talented young tackle who really hadn’t had any sort of actual education whatsoever until he reached high school. It’s an amazing case study not just of the modern athlete, but of nature/nurture developmental psych issues. I lent this book to my psych teacher in high school, who has never watched a football game in her life, and she was absolutely floored by it. This book is a masterpiece. Plain and simple. And the fact that Oher was just a 1st-round pick in the NFL draft makes the continuing story that much more interesting.

The Rivalry, by John Taylor

The Breaks of the Game, by David Halberstam

Seven Seconds or Less…, by Jack McCallum

Three absolutely amazing descriptions of specific eras in pro basketball, from when it was a fledgling niche sport struggling to find a foothold behind a dominant star and a dominant franchise, to just before it broke out behind Bird and Magic, to the modern era. Playing for Keeps is my favorite of these types of books, but all of these books are fantastic in their own right.

The Rivalry is particularly fascinating for its character study of Wilt Chamberlain, both one of the most dominant athletes of all time and somehow the most disappointing. Like MJ just proved yet again with his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, Wilt is one of the first examples of greatness as a disease.

Breaks of the Game and Seven Seconds or Less are interesting because of how similar many of the characters are: The disgruntled second-tier star (Maurice Lucas and Shawn Marion), the flashy gunner (Eddie House and Billy Ray Bates), the injured superstar who loomed over the team (Bill Walton and Amare Stoudemire), and the brilliant architects of the whole endeavor. (Brian Coangelo/Mike D’Antoni and Stu Inman/Jack Ramsay)

Another layer added to both books is how close both franchises were to ruining themselves: The Suns gave Eddie House and Rajon Rondo’s money to Marcus Banks after the season described by SSOL, which spelled the beginning of the end for that franchise. Even more catastrophically, Breaks of the Game features Stu Inman describing his reasons for picking Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Even Playing For Keeps offers a profile of Jerry Krause, who destroyed the Bulls shortly after Jordan left. All three books, and maybe even Moneyball as well, describe the magic of a perfectly run franchise while unintentionally describing the impossibility of sustaining that success.

Pistol, by Mark Kreigel

Another beautiful portrait of basketball’s early era, as well as the best straight athlete bio I’ve ever read. Pistol Pete, if not one of the best to ever play the game, was certainly one of the most important, and fascinating.

God Save the Fan, by Will Leitch

Technically not blackballed by ESPN anymore! I like Deadspin. I love Will Leitch as an essayist. He details the perversities and hypocrisies of modern sports mythology perfectly, while giving ample reason to stick with these silly games anyways. His footnoted interview of John Rocker, his essay on steroids, and his brilliant and side-splitting essay on homosexuality in professional sports are highlights.

FreeDarko Presents… The Macrophenominal Basketball Almanac, by Bethlehem Shoals, Silverbird5000, Dr. Lawyer IndianChief, Brown Recluse, Esq., and Big Baby Belafonte

Yes, I claim some conflict of interest here-I got my big break getting brought in to provide content for FreeDarko’s website while those guys were busy with the book. But it’s still an exceptional piece of work-in the stats, content, essays, theories, and illustrations, it represents a level of thought put into sport that just wasn’t seen in modern sportswriting before the internet era.

Now I Can Die In Peace, by Bill Simmons

Again, a bit of a conflict of interest here, but this is the most influential sportswriter of the last decade. Period. And the “collection of essays” format, normally a cop-out, actually helps this book. You get to see the game change in real-time, from Simmons’ early non-affiliated work, handing out Godfather quotes, dropping F-bombs, and live-journaling a wedding, to trying to bring the voice of the fan to the mainstream. To ignore Simmons’ impact and deny his talent is to be a step behind.

Alright, that’s all for tonight. I’m still going to do one more of these, but I’m sure I plum forgot a bunch, so sound off in the comments. Until next time, campers.

Why Don’t We Just Stay In and Make Power Rankings: Commercials!

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

By the way: don’t forget to check out the link roundup I made Thursday, mainly because I actually made a link roundup.

Boys and occasional girl who clicks on the wrong link, I’m going to level with you. It’s a long off-season. And during the off-season, a lot of times things don’t happen. And when nothing’s happening, it’s high time to start arbitrarily ranking things for no particular reason. So we’re going to start doing power rankings of things that tangentially have to do with basketball on a completely random and irregular basis here at Cavs: The Blog, and hopefully you enjoy it.

(By the way, like “Shaqenfreude,” I thought I came up with this on my own, but another THN blogger beat me to it by a good while. In this case, Clipperblog did non-basketball power rankings years ago, and there may have been people who did it before that. But I’m doing mine anyways. A hat-tip also goes to Kissing Suzy Kolber’s fake mock drafts. LINK RATED R.)

The topic of tonight’s power rankings is commercials. There are two main reasons why we’re starting with commercials-first, this Nike Hyperize commercial, featuring Mo Williams as Fog Raw, has unofficially kicked off the year in ads. (I liked it, although I felt it was inferior to the Dr. Funk/Roswell Rayguns/Funk Ship campaign of a similar vein from a few years back.) Second, Mad Men comes back on Sunday, and that show pretty much makes advertising seem like the most awesome thing ever invented. That show also rules.

The topic is somehow basketball-related because during the playoffs, when TiVo was simply not an option, we all sat through a lot of commercials. I mean, a lot. And my ulcer and I came to appreciate great commercials, because they would occasionally give me 30 seconds of peace while I was in the middle of a prolonged panic attack. Likewise, there were some commercials that made me want to drill a hole through my own skull. But tonight, we celebrate the very best commercials from the past year.

Honorable Mention: Six Flags, “Colonial Fair”

Why: Me and my friend were watching TV one day, and this ad just came on, completely taking us by surprise. We almost died laughing. There is something just so bizarre and random and weird and glorious about the whole endeavor here that absolutely killed me, especially considering I had no expectations for it. I fear its magic may not translate for everybody, and have been told this a number of times, but I’m giving it an honorable mention anyways.

Number 5: Nike, “The Chalk”

Why: Another example of why they’re Nike and everyone else isn’t. A perfect song choice with a 1997 song from a “British Indie” band, beautiful and classy black and white photography, using a flagship’s on-court acts to form a cult of personality around him, a random shot of ‘Lil Wayne, great shots of kids playing basketball, and it drives home one of the few true trademarks in professional sports. Just about a perfect sports ad. And yes, I admit I may be biased on this one.

Number 4: Dos Equis, “The Most Interesting Man in the World.”

Why: Kevin Arnovitz, unedited, on this ad: “Here’s what I want to know. How did they get the Jai Alai footage? Is it the same guy with less makeup on? Is it a younger guy who they hired because he looked like the guy? Is it footage of the guy playing Jai Alai when he was younger? Did they know he used to play Jai Alai when they hired him? How much of a backstory did they have written out? Holy crap, that ad is amazing.” And it is. Seriously, did you ever see anyone with a Dos Equis before these ads started playing? And I love that it took, what, 3 years for somebody to make Chuck Norris jokes into an ad campaign?

Number 3: Heineken, “Let a Stranger Drive You Home.”

Why: You can talk about this ad for what it is: perfect song choice, one great reveal (the cab driver singing), the good mood, the casting, the message. But it’s more remarkable for what it’s not. How many ads for beer and/or alcohol actually show drunk people? It’s like these companies think that it’s a state secret that drinking makes you drunk. And they’re still having a good time! They’re not pounding shots of vodka and playing chess out on a yacht on a beautiful European sea, putting their arms around a model and staring pensively out at the dimming light of the horizon, or whatever it is people do in most ads for alcohol. And beer ads are generally about the idiotic things men do to get beer.

This ad is remarkable for what it isn’t-idiotic, base, misogynistic, a crock of crap, or anything else. And it actually still has a responsible message. A good-natured beer ad with drunk people-who’d have thunk it?

Number 2: Snickers, “Patrick Chewing”

I’m a big fan of this absurdist Snickers campaign in general. And this is absurdist advertising at its most glorious. I mean, how do you break down Patrick Chewing? PATRICK CHEWING! If you don’t smile every time that ad comes on, you steal from the elderly. As good as the punch line is, and the fact that it’s Patrick Ewing, I gotta say that it’s Ewing deadpanning “What’s up, Ryan?” that makes this ad. It’s absolutely perfect. There’s really not a better way to spend 17 seconds than that ad. (Ha ha.)

Number 1: Nike, “Fate”

Why: I mean, come on. Again, this is why they’re Nike and you’re not. Do they want to talk about the new removable strap? No. Do they want to make a cheap joke? No. They’re going to bring in David freaking Fincher and have him teach a freaking class in worldless storytelling with two flagship athletes. Numbers two and three were bits of escapism; this ad demands attention.

And for the song, he finds a great remix of The Ecstasy of Gold by Ennio Morricone, considered by many to be the greatest piece of music to ever accompany a scene in a motion picture? Again, are you kidding me?

And the ad itself is amazing-about 20 images of 2-3 seconds each, each telling a piece of the story, not one shot wasted-again, it’s just beyond my pay-grade. I’d rather have this on my resume than Zodiac. And I liked Zodiac. (And from what I hear from people who saw Benjamin Button, Fincher could’ve stood to learn a lesson about the value of brevity from this ad.)

So that’s my list-comment, argue about rank, tell me I’m an idiot for finding that stupid Six Flags thing hilarious, and of course add your own nominees. I leave you now for the weekend, and next time I post it’ll probably be from USC. It’s been a fun summer, campers.