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'NBA Forever' is a slam dunk

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  December 26, 2011 12:12 PM

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You've probably seen TNT's "NBA Forever" commercial that aired before yesterday's Celtics-Knicks season tipoff all over the Internets by now. But it's just so mesmerizing, perfectly executed like a DJ backboard pass to Bird, that I must post it here.

Using editing technology beyond my comprehension to meld past NBA legends in photos and footage with contemporary stars, it's ... well, if it's not the greatest commercial in the history of the NBA, I've forgotten anything better.

Sure, the Bird/Magic Converse ad is classic, and this excellent compilation of the 50 greatest NBA commercials is guaranteed to entertain/distract you for the rest of the day. But nothing else quite measures up to "NBA Forever,'' in part because the point in the others isn't as meaningful. They're all selling something, but with this commercial, TNT has done a masterful job of using nostalgia and rich history to remind even a Grinch still angry about the lockout that the NBA's return is a welcome present.

You bet I'm buying.

Here are a few of my favorite highlights after watching it approximately 33 times this morning:

:02: Paul Pierce jogging out of the tunnel with the dynasty Celtics of the last '50s or early '60s. Recognize that handsome fella right in front of Pierce? Hint: "YOU'RE GONNA CALL THAT A HAHD FOUL?? If you knew that was Tommy Heinsohn, you earn a Tommy Point.

:06: Kobe and Magic paired together. Shiver. It's funny to realize how close they did come to becoming teammates -- Magic's ill-fated 32-game comeback in 1995-96 came the year before 18-year-old Kobe joined the Lakers straight out of high school. But that's challenged as the best "Can you imagine if they played together at their peak?" pairing in the whole video ...

:20: ... by the triangle of Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose, and Scottie Pippen. Nice of the editors to allow Bill Cartwright to remain in the clip, though I suspect he accidentally knocked out the fifth Bulls starter (Artis Gilmore? Jerry Sloan?) with an inadvertent elbow.

:39 Bird ducking the shoulder into Dirk. Just ... awesome. You know, Cedric Maxwell took a lot of heat a few years ago for suggesting that Nowitzki was equal to or better than his former Celtics teammate, and at the time, it did seem that Max was partially motivated by his festering frustration that Bird had signed off Red Auerbach's deal that sent him to the Clippers for Bill Walton before the 1985-86 season. But taking our understandable nobody-did-it-better perspective on Bird out of the equation, and considering all that Dirk did this year -- including overcoming his rep for shrinking in big moments -- while leading the Mavs to the title ... it is a fair question and a fun debate, and one that tilts Dirk's way in certain categories. But six seconds on the clock, score tied, and doomed to an eternity of eating nothing but Chicken McNuggets if you lose, Larry's getting the last shot. I mean, have you ever looked at a McNugget?

maravichpetefinn1226.jpg:41: A trio of inspired pairings: Charles Barkley and Carmelo Anthony (you'd think they'd be yapping at each other but they aren't), Kevin Durant and George Gervin (gotta be the two lankiest, finger-rollingest scoring machines in NBA history), Steve Nash and fellow magician Pistol Pete Maravich ...

:49: ... and then it ends. LeBron dunking over Dr. J? Sorry, the wrong No. 6 is bringing the thunder there.

1:08: Bird kicking to Ray Allen for a three. Beautiful. I'd still rather have Larry take the must-make shot, but if you don't think Allen is in the top five options, take a look at his cumulative numbers and his career percentages overall, from 3, and the free throw line and find me five better shooters in the history of the sport. I triple-dog-dare you.

1:32: The late Croatian legend Drazen Petrovic, who died in a car accident in 1993 at age 28 just when he was starting to show what he could do in the NBA. A nice touch, coming right at the lyrics "... live forever," and a savvy reminder that the NBA has gone world-wide since his death.

1:43: A Jordan-Rose fist bump, and finis. My only gripe? No clip of Greg Kite awkwardly giving a high-five to Greg Steimsma after the Bird-Allen connection. Maybe next Christmas.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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