The Flying Pitchmen: the 5 Best Commercials Starring NBA Players

While NBA players have made it abundantly clear that they’re incapable of making a movie that doesn’t make you want to hit yourself over the head with a tack hammer, they have done oddly well with commercials. So the general lesson here is, if you give an NBA player more than thirty seconds on camera, he will make you regret it forever. But give him a short, clever spot, and you could come up with an ad that fans will remember forever.
These are the top five commercials starring NBA players.

5 Kyrie Irving – Pepsi Max

If you haven’t seen the Uncle Drew commercial, WATCH IT NOW. At five minutes long, it’s a little unfair to even call it commercial, but we couldn’t resist including it on this list. Kyrie Irving, a budding 20-year-old NBA star, plays Drew, a washed up old man who heads to the park to show the ‘youngbloods’ he can still ball. It’s basically a short film wherein a bunch of people seem to think they are being dominated and dunked on by a guy who looks like Redd Foxx, and it is priceless. It may not be a commercial in the technical TV sense, but it’s an ad for Pepsi Max, so it counts (even though you pretty much come away from it thinking Kyrie Irving is awesome and still knowing very little about what the hell Pepsi Max is).

4 Larry Johnson – Converse

The “Grandmama” ad may have been higher on the list had it made any sense at all, but still, it was fun. For some reason, the people at Converse decided to take their biggest client at the time, and stick him in a dress to try to sell shoes. While seeing an old lady dunk sure as hell didn’t inspire anyone to actually switch to Converse (back then you wore Nikes or you were on the receiving end of some serious wedgies), but damn if they weren’t entertaining. Plus, the commercial led to a guest spot on ‘Family Matters,’ and well, seeing Steve Urkel ball out with Larry Johnson in drag is just something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

3 Blake Griffin – Kia

Despite often sporting a vacant stare that seems completely devoid of brain activity, Blake Griffin has proven there’s actually quite a bit of acting talent beneath those ginger curls. The Clippers superstar has shown a particular propensity for comedy in some recent ads, the best of which is the new Kia spot. Blake uses his time-jumping Kia Optima (let’s see a Benz do that) to travel back to 1997, where he not only tells his younger self about the futuristic features of his new car, but also serves up an invaluable and wise piece of advice; “Stop wearing jean shorts.” Sage-like indeed.

2 Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway – Nike

If you even try to claim that you weren’t entertained by the tiny man-doll version of Penny Hardaway that was voiced by Chris Rock, then you’re a damn liar. The Lil’ Penny ads from the mid-90s were hilarious, including memorable lines where he asked his life-sized pal if his couch was real leather, and revealed that he was once in the same high school science club as Kevin Garnett. The best of the ads though, had to be the super-cinematic cut where a park full of stunned onlookers, including Tyra Banks (before she was awful), watch in awe as Penny Hardaway throws down a slow motion dunk. And just try not to laugh when Lil’ Penny lifts his tiny puppet foot to launch that rocket. You can’t do it. It’s a true classic.

1 Michael Jordan and Larry Bird – McDonald’s

There is no commercial featuring NBA players that’s quite as memorable as Michael Jordan and Larry Bird’s epic winner-take-Big Mac shootout from the early 90s. Even though both Michael and Larry made enough money in their careers to ensure that they’d never again have to punish their bodies by ingesting an actual Big Mac, the commercial somehow still felt authentic. There was one major flaw with the ad though, and that was that McDonald’s didn’t book Charles Barkley for the spot. Because let’s be honest, with a burger on the line, Sir Charles would’ve willed himself to legitimately hit every single one of those shots.

There you have it, the five best commercials featuring NBA players. We were going to include the ones with the Kobe and LeBron puppets, but then it occurred to us that Nike probably only made little plush versions of those guys to make us forget that the real ones are both dicks, and we thought it better to leave them off. Besides, if you think we missed some great ones, you’ll just have to make a list of your own.
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