Surgeons of the Short Robe
Above, watch an ad you've probably seen many times before. In case you haven't, here's a primer: early in his rookie season, Chris Webber dunked on Charles Barkley and embarrassed him. Nike made this ad part of their "Barbershop" campaign, but Barkley didn't take to kindly to C-Webb and Spree's mockery and eviscerated the Warriors in their first-round playoff series. The ad is a part of these players' careers, a touchstone in Chuck's badass story and an important part of Webber's history of youthful mistakes. The spot even gets a mention in our forthcoming book.
But it was just one of many pieces of the complete "Barbershop" series, and now you can watch them all on YouTube thanks to user jellyhelm. Check them all out below, with commentary.
This Gervin ad is the most famous one of the bunch after Barkley/Webber. Pay close attention to the co-opting of ABA style -- Artist Gilmore is also present -- for a new breed of stars. At the time, the ABA was making a popular comeback as cool history, although it's use in ads wouldn't reach its apex until the Roswell Rayguns spots later in the decade. Also, I have no idea why everyone laughs at Gervin's finger-roll comment at the end. Either I'm missing a joke or am way whiter than I ever thought possible.
Oh look, another ad about Webber dunking on people, this time because he was constantly mocked for his shoes as a child. Nike is obviously trying to sell him as a ruthless competitor, one who will steal your lunch and pull down your pants whenever you slight him. That's interesting to consider in light of his perceived failings in the clutch with the Kings, as well as his infamous timeout for Michigan just a year earlier.
Or maybe Webber was actually a quite and collected gentleman who makes the ladies swoon. It's odd that these two spots would essentially say completely different things about a player. Is he a reserved assassin? A deadly sweetheart? Make up your mind, guys. If I've learned one thing from watching Mad Men, it's to be clear in your argument, and also to make every campaign about nostalgia.
Here's Dennis Rodman, at the height of Wormdom with San Antonio, saying he's a lunchpail blue-collar player who just loves the game and wants to play his best. Timmy Hardaway calls him out on his faux humility, but Rodman is actually being very honest about his in-game style. What he'd later realize, of course, is that you don't sell a personality to the public based on dirty work. Can you even imagine the Rodman of the Bulls visiting an old-time barbershop? Didn't he get his hair cut on a dirigible manned by pygmy elephants?
David Robinson is boring and can only be made interesting with weird hair.
I'm Eric Freeman. Read more from me at Early Termination Option.