Greatest Ever Music Used for NBA Commercials

(by Nick Sheer)

With everyone all hyped for the NBA Playoffs (sorry Laker and Knicks fans), there’s no better season for brands and the NBA itself to roll out their most cinematographic commercials. Filled with dramatic camera angles, lavish sequences, and of course memorable uses of original composed music, basketball commercials around this time are usually not only some of the best seen for the season but usually are the highest awarded for the year.

The majority of the best basketball ads have been created for Nike and Michael Jordan’s Air Jordans brand, with some of the finest commercial music composition EVER. In some regards, the music supervision for many of Jordan’s ads are second to none and have only added to the level of prestige and legacy his name carries. Other uses of original composed music in basketball ads remind us why we love the game so much and while some are just clear fun to listen to.

Here are some of the best seen…and heard:

Nike – Air Jordan “2nd Generation”

In 2006, three years since the retirement of Michael Jordan, Nike and ad agency Wieden+Kennedy wanted to keep the most iconic images of the world’s greatest basketball player fresh in the public mind. Casting athletes/actors who could best mimic Jordan’s mannerisms and in-game heroics, “2nd Generation” would become a favorite amongst fans not only for its reminder of how just how driven and perfected Jordan’s game was, but also for the original piece by a Nike-favorite composer Jonathan Elias along with David Wittman. The piece titled by fans as “Let Your Game Speak” is everything a winning last shot should feel like – anxiety, relief, glory.


Nike – “Freestyle”

No basketball commercial envisions the “sounds” of the game than Nike’s 1997 “Freestyle” commercial. Using only the squeaks of shoes and the pounding beats of dribbling, the original piece for Nike streetballer ad was not only catchy but cutting-edge for its time. Without any star power to carry the ad, the commercial relied on its “Bring In The Noise, Bring In Da Funk” styled music alone.


Nike – “Star Spangled Banner” USA Basketball 2008

If you think any American Anthem sung at the Super Bowl are the most memorable patriotic music moments at a sports event, think again. In 1983, Marvin Gaye’s performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” reminds us just how cool it is to not only be an American, but to be an individual. Soulful, funky, and every bit patriotic, Gaye’s touch on the anthem is without a doubt one of the finest music memories of the NBA. In 2008, to promote the USA “Redeem Team” at the Beijing Olympics Nike used the track to bring back not only the iconic prestige to long battered USA Basketball program, but remind everyone the lineage our athletes represent with the letters on their jerseys. Renee Fleming’s Super Bowl performance may have been the best sung at a sporting event, but Gaye’s often forgotten performance is still the most uplifting.

NBA – “I Love This Game” 1995

Don’t think classical music could ever coexist with sports? Tell that to the golden age NBA of the 90s that featured this jubilation-filled commercial for their “I Love This Game” campaign. Using Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” across some of the finest playoff basketball memories of the mid-90s and you’ve got instant nostalgia magic.


ABC’s Final Promo/Intro Spot 2006-2013

While John Tesh’s “Roundball Rock” used for NBC’s coverage of the NBA will forever be known as the premiere theme for all of NBA telecasts, ABC’s promo spots for their NBA Final coverage is no inspirational slouch either. With an original music score composed by Suad Cokljat and brought out right before the NBA Finals and condensed for 30 second spots, ABC’s Finals Intro is perhaps the most structured of any piece made for an NBA-related package. A mix of legacy and modern-day footage of NBA glory, just try holding back the tears by time the trumpets starting ringing in at 1:10 into the spot.


NBA – “Win” Playoffs 2007

Using Carly Comando’s original piano composition and viral hit “Everyday,” the NBA’s “Win” theme for the 2009 Playoffs featured not only the league’s best players, but reminds the drama and memories every post-season provides. Comando’s “Everyday” mixed with a testament collage ranging from megastars like Kobe Bryant to role players like Tayshaun Prince not only humanizes the game but create an element of emotion that every fan can relate to.


Nike – Air Jordan / “What Is Love?”

In 2003, upon the upcoming third retirement of Michael Jordan, Nike created a four minute retrospective of his Airness’ career but literally the journey his sneakers have walked. Jordan commentates on nearly 20 years of NBA playing, answering the question “What Is Love?” for every year. Jordan’s most memorable (double three-peats) and even forgettable (Minor League Baseball sting, 1995 Playoffs) moments are relished over an incredibly dramatic music ode. As with all Air Jordan commercials, the music is some of the finest ever created for an advertising spot and only reinforces the drive…and love Jordan brought to the game.

Nike – Air Jordan “Frozen Moment” 1996

Before there was the Matrix, no visual medium wowed audiences with “bullet-time” than Nike’s award-winning “Frozen Moment.” Premiering in 1996 at the height of Jordan’s double three-peat teams (this being the season of his 72-win Bulls), no commercial cemented the legacy of his Airness more than the award-winning “Frozen Moment” spot. Cinematographically, no commercial until this point held such artistic value as “Frozen Moment” did and became equally noted for its memorable choral backing track as its anxious slow-mo Jordan visuals. While many believed the choral track was done by Sigur Ros, its actually an original piece created specifically for this commercial. “Frozen Moment” use of music complemented an often overseen perspective of sports in motion as art.


Nike – Little Penny “Frozen Moment”

Capitalizing on the instant recognition of Jordan’s “Frozen Moment” commercial with its “Suo Gan”-like music, Nike parodied itself for the “Little Penny” brand of shoes for what many considered the next Airness (at the time) Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. Featuring the voice of Chris Rock as Lil’ Penny, an appearance by the biggest supermodel of the moment Tyra Banks, and a slow-mo capture of Penny Hardaway, Little Penny’s “Frozen Moment” spot would not be outdone with its comical choral approach with its music. “Box out!”

TNT – “Live Forever”

While not necessarily a classical piece nor even a playoff-focused, it would be a complete injustice to do a feature on the finest NBA commercial spots without TNT’s “Live Forever” for their Christmas Day 2011 coverage. Using Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors’s specially arranged “Live Forever” for the spot, TNT’s ad is every bit as moving as any dramatic sports commercial (or movie for that matter).

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