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Friday, March 28, 2008

The Dunk, the Commercial--and the Aftermath

I have already discussed Chris Webber's legacy from an analytical standpoint but no retrospective of his career is complete without considering the three part drama that could be titled "The dunk, the commercial--and the aftermath."

It all began in Webber's rookie season, when he was a lot more athletic than many younger fans probably realize. Webber had the ball on a fast break, took it behind his back and dunked right in Charles Barkley's face. Barkley, the reigning MVP, and Webber, the soon to be Rookie of the Year, were both Nike clients, so the shoemaker featured the play in one of their "barbershop" commercials. With the great background music, the use of the Superman cape more than a decade before Dwight Howard did it in the slam dunk contest and the witty punchline, it became an instant classic:

Webber and Sprewell in the barbershop

Of course, the "role model" quip was a reference to an earlier Barkley commercial in which he insisted, "I am not a role model."

Nike contacted Barkley before they made the barbershop commercial and he was cool with the idea. As he regularly shows on TNT, he does not mind having a laugh at his own expense. Still, as a competitor you know that he did not enjoy getting dunked on like that, so matters could not end in the barbershop. Fast forward to that year's playoffs. Barkley's Phoenix Suns enjoyed a 2-0 lead over Webber's Golden State Warriors in a best of five first round series. Golden State Coach Don Nelson decided to not double team Barkley--and the rest is history:

Charles Barkley Versus the Warriors, Game 3, 1994 Playoffs

I like the title of that video--kind of like the old marquee that read, "George Mikan versus the Knicks." Barkley scored 27 points in the first quarter en route to 56 points--still tied for the third most in NBA playoff history--on 23-31 field goal shooting. He also had 14 rebounds.

Thanks for the memories, Chris Webber.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:21 AM



At Friday, March 28, 2008 5:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for reference, the tune in the background is "Express Yourself" by Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.
Being in the UK, that's the first time I've seen the whole ad in full - never saw the Superman bit at the start :o)

At Friday, March 28, 2008 6:14:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I would've sworn that the singer was James Brown but you are right. Thank you for helping give credit where credit is due.


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