My top five favorite old basketball commercials

Chris Thelin

Equinox Staff


Spring Weekend is one of the best parts of going to college. The weekend usually comes at a perfect time where it gives the students an excuse to take a break one last time before finals start.

This, by far, was one of the best weekends.

Between all the parties, Lupe Fiasco, and the chance to hang out with friends, new and old, made for a great weekend and a memorable beginning of the end for my college career.

However, there was more to Spring Weekend. This weekend almost marked the start of the NBA Playoffs, better known as an excuse to procrastinate from studying and writing papers.

One of my favorite parts of the NBA is the commercials starring some of the best the league has to offer.

However, I have been very disappointed with the commercials the NBA has limped to the barn with thus far. I mean, the talking basketball that makes dumb puns or the big heads that signify the season is bigger than ever. Yawn.

So in hopes of David Stern and the NBA marketing team reads this column, I will run down my top five  funniest NBA commercials of all-time.


Number 5: Li’l Penny

Perhaps before some readers’ time but one of my favorite players growing up was Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, possibly because my sister’s name is Penny, but mostly for the commercials.

Hardaway, who used to be a superstar, had some of the best commercials of all time. It starred him and a Li’l Penny puppet, which was voiced by Chris Rock.

The commercials are absolutely hilarious. For a puppet, Li’l Penny went on some crazy adventures. From dreaming about being a professional player and hanging out with Tyra Banks to being in a This is SportsCenter commercial and everything in between.

The best commercial came from the NBC intro to the 1996 Playoffs between the Bulls and the Magic.

Li’l Penny is preparing for the series and “even cut open a pair of Air Jordans just to see what was inside.” He went on to say, “Penny told me it’s going to be a war. A war I am going to have to watch,” as the screen cut to Li’l Penny watching the game with two beautiful women. I wish I could trade places with that puppet.


Number 4: Converse Weapons Rap

This is a quick 30-second commercial staring some of the best ball players from the early 1990’s. Players such as Magic Johnson, Bernard King, and Isiah Thomas would pop on screen and did a two line rhyme about the shoe they wore, the Converse Weapon.

The commercial was not supposed to be funny at all. All the players had a fluent flow, surprisingly even Kevin McHale, but that all turned south when Larry Bird took the floor. Bird comes in and drops, “You already know what they did for me, I walked away with the MVP.” Not a bad rhyme right?

The only problem is it sounded as if he were reading and was completely off beat. I wonder if Converse did like 40 takes of that commercial and that was the best one. If that’s the case, please release the other 39.


Number 3: Steve Nash Vitamin Water Infomercial

I don’t know if a lot of people saw these commercials but this is where Steve Nash busted out of his shell for me.

The point guard helped put together a fake infomercial for Vitamin Water and simply put the Sham-Wow guy to shame.

In the minute-and-a-half commercial Nash wants to know if the people out there watching “want to get paid for making a flavor of Vitamin Water?”

In addition, there is a cameo from rapper 50 Cent, who claimed he was so stinking rich that he smelled like the vault.

In addition to the infomercial, Nash stars in a few other Vitamin Water commercials where he busts out of his soft spoken, politically correct image that he had built up over the years. I had no idea he had this sense of humor until these commercials aired.


Number 2: NBA Gametime

ESPN always does a fantastic job with their commercials. From This is SportsCenter to “College Gameday,” the marketing team at ESPN has done a great job of advertising using professional athletes. Go figure.

Although there are way too many to list, I’ll give you my top two, the first being the guacamole trophy.

The commercial takes place on the NBA Bus with Lamar Odom eating tortilla chips on the bus. James Worthy and Magic Johnson look at each other and say, “He doesn’t know yet.” It is soon revealed to Odom that the Larry O’Brien Trophy is filled with guacamole and nacho cheese, essentially being the perfect snack holder.

The second one is staring the Big Diesel, Shaquille O’Neal, playing Scrabble by his own rules. Some of the words included on the board were Shaqfu, Shaqattack, Shaqtus, and Shaqtastic (which he played for a whooping 29 points. I’ll have to remember that one next time I am playing Words with Friends).

When Stu Scott asked him where he got so many Q’s, Shaq replies in my favorite catchphrase “Don’t worry about it.”

Shaq is, possibly soon to be was, one of the most charismatic athletes in sports. I am sick and tired of everyone trying to turn Dwight Howard into Shaq.

It’s just not the same. Howard is never going to be Kazzam.

Howard is never going to bust out a freestyle with the hook being, “Kobe, how my ass taste?” The only thing Howard has going for him is that terrible Stan Van Gundy impression the fans are subjected to at least once a primetime game.


Number 1: The LeBron and Kobe Puppets aka the MVPuppets

Yes, I know I am writing this column in the heart of Boston sports and yes I do know I am writing about two of the most hated athletes in this sports area, but those commercials were just pure genius.

The arrogance of the Kobe Bryant puppet, how the LeBron James puppet got fed up with living with Kobe; and who could forget Li’l Dez?

Nike did a great job jokingly picking at the two players with James’ chalk overtaking the house and Kobe comparing three cookies to his three NBA Championship rings.

It looked as if Nike was expecting Kobe and LeBron to be facing off in the finals that year, but it didn’t quite turn out that way when the Cavs lost to the Magic in the Conference Finals, but it did a great job of keeping it going. Honestly, it may have been the best part of the Finals that year.

This was probably one of the best marketing campaigns of all time.

If you haven’t seen them already, you need to take the 10 minutes to watch all the commercials, as odd as that sounds.

Well that’s the list. Some of the best side entertainment during a basketball games come from these commercials. Now I urge you to please watch the NBA Playoffs to prevent a lockout.


Chris Thelin can be contacted at

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