Dr. James A. Naismith is a man to be celebrated. Not only did he invent the sport of basketball in 1891, but his work enabled us to live in a world where Master P clowns around with his pals on the court with a big-ass platinum tank cruising around. You’ve earned your Heritage Minute, sir!
Toronto plays host to the NBA All-Star Weekend this February and we’re marking the occasion with a look at basketball-themed music videos from days gone by. If you’re fond of mascot dunks, poor defence, and the flawless rap stylings of Aaron Carter, we’ve got you covered. Chris Cunningham directed hellscapes featuring the Sacramento Kings? Not so much. (Y’know, just because it doesn’t exist yet.)
Here are nine videos to gawk at while watching Win Butler foul out in the celebrity game.
Aaron Carter – “That’s How I Beat Shaq”
Everything the world knew about basketball was tossed upside down when The Big Aristotle took on The Big Cautionary Tale in an unsanctioned 1-on-1 game in the early ’00s. Aaron Carter’s victory over beloved Hollywood actor Shaquille O’Neal combined two upsets in one: A pop moppet managed to outduel a pre-decline basketball star, and Shaq somehow found someone that was a worse rapper than he was. A match made in Goldbond-dusted heaven, really. That said, PLAY SOME DEFENCE YOU HALL OF FAME BEHEMOTH! (And maybe use your enormous hands to punch Lou Pearlman into a crumpled pile of bones?)
Sadly for Aaron, this whole encounter turned out to be a dream. Is this a cover-up to hide the dirty dark secret of recording artist vs. basketball player 1-on-1 leagues? Who’s to say? (If they do exist, our money’s on Prince.)
B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes – “Hit Em High (The Monstars’ Anthem)”
The second of two (2!) 1996 music videos to combine Coolio, basketball, and soundtrack tie-in goodness (the first being “It’s All the Way Live (Now)” from Eddie), “Hit Em High (The Monstars’ Anthem)” lets you decide which of the five rappers absorbed Shawn Bradley powers. How courteous!
Doubling as a highlight reel for all the assorted dunks/antics the cartoon baddies busted out in Space Jam, we’re also treated to LL Cool J wearing eyeblack CUZ SPORTS. Seeing as it’s 1997 LL, we like to imagine he showed up in his “Phenomenon” gear and had to be talked into the uniform provided by wardrobe.
For a movie cash grab, this track and video still has a surprising amount to offer beyond nostalgia porn appeal.
Michael Jackson – “Jam”
Speaking of MJ-friendly fare, “Jam” aligned the forces of Michael Jackson (the Aaron Carter of his day) and Michael Jordan for a fancypants video that looks like the pre-orgasm visions of a Nike marketing exec. Boasting assists (BASKETBALL TERM) from Heavy D (R.I.P.) and Kris Kross (50% R.I.P.), the clip features dancing, basketball and a firm belief in jam awareness.
As is the case with like 87% of Jacko videos, the King of Pop can sometimes turn on magic powers to morph into some sort of basketball wizard. (But not a Washington Wizard, because they’re shit this year. Maybe he’s more of a basketball warlock in this scenario.) The highlight of the video? The end bit where Jackson does his best to teach Jordan how to dance the King of Pop way. You can see Jacko’s patience being eroded away like a perpetually worked on nose but he still soldiers on trying to get this multimillionaire athlete to hit the choreography at an acceptable level.
Master P feat. Fiend, Silkk the Shocker, Mia X, and Mystikal – “Make Em Say Uhh”
Quick! Name a music video better than Master P’s “Make Em Say Uhh!” What’s that? You can’t. Of course you can’t. “Make Em Say Uhh” is the peak of human achievement and to suggest otherwise would be ridiculous. Religions have been built on waaaaaaaaay less.
This clip features future Raptors hopeful Percy Miller at the peak of No Limit Records’ cultural relevance dicking around with his pals on a basketball court outfitted with such glorious things as a platinum tank and a gratuitous Shaq cameo.
In an era where every hip-hop anthem came equipped with a video more decadent than the last, Master P managed to get the ultimate bang for his buck by trotting out a real life version of NBA Jam complete with all the Game Genie codes turned on. By making everything wildly unnecessary (shameless Suns mascot ripoff ahoy!), the whole package congealed into something ESSENTIAL. Come for the guttural hook, stay for five minutes of perfection.
New Edition – “My Secret (Didja Gitit Yet?)”
BETRAYAL! Here lies video proof that Boston R&B heroes New Edition helped push the Los Angeles Lakers to a 1985 NBA Finals victory over their hometown Celtics. The promo for their agreeably gooey single “My Secret (Didja Getit Yet?)” showcased the group taking a break from making assorted girls melt so they could take in a Lakers home game.
Nothing says teen heartthrob fun quite like extended shots of a crouching Pat Reilly. The video also lets us know that Magic Johnson is a supportive dude when he pops up in your dream sequences, so now we can all feel bad for making fun of The Magic Hour. Splinter faction Bell Biv DeVoe would later return for more basketball video funzos in the clip for “Above The Rim,” a video so early ’90s that it bleeds Crystal Pepsi.
Kurtis Blow – “Basketball”
Fans can be fickle about innovation in basketball. For every successful new tweak like the ABA’s popularization of the three-pointer, we weep ten thousand tears for the public’s indifference towards SlamBall. YOU COULD HAVE HAD IT ALL, YOU CLOSEDMINDED KNOBS!
Sadly, the vision of basketball’s future presented by Kurtis Blow in the mid ’80s failed to shape new possibilities for the sport. Despite presenting such revolutionary concepts as “um, seven-foot rims?” and “fuck yeah, martial arts should be included,” the cowards at the National Basketball Association failed to merge these ideas into their league. We’re still holding out hope that whatever the hell this is gets a shot at being an NBA staple before 2020.
Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball” has built up a lot of goodwill based on its charms. Future CSI Cyber star Lil Bow Wow elected to take the track for spin in with a pseudo-cover of the track for his magic shoes movie Like Mike. It’s nothing too spectacular, but it does allow us to remind you that Crispin Glover’s in the movie as a sinister orphanage director.
Haim – “Don’t Save Me”
Taylor Swift slumber party enablers Haim placed their athletic skills on display in the hoops heavy promo for “Don’t Save Me.” As the bewitching pop-rock sounds of the tune waft through the clip, Este, Danielle, and Alana brave a cruel world of flagrant elbow chucking and questionable lighting to mount a dramatic comeback.
Let this be a reminder for slumping clubs: Getting back on track involves tenacious choreography, sensibly used dance sequeneces and bit of bass face. STUDY THE GAME FILM! Fingers crossed will see 1-3 Haim sisters pop up in this year’s celebrity game. Or in the slam dunk competition if they feel like it.
Drake – “Best I Ever Had”
Drake plays pervy Popovich to a gaggle of sexy lady basketball players in the Kanye-directed clip for “Best I Ever Had” but it’s the sly twist partway through the video that serves as the star attraction. Come along as the camera leers at the cabal of babes in ridiculous uniforms as Drizzy unspools dialogue that wouldn’t be out of place in an ’80s sex romp called Boner Alert!
Sadly for Drake, his coaching acumen is no match for the opposing team of female ballers who slaughter their uniquely attired opponents. “Now I swore the new uniforms would be encouragement. The Mighty Ducks didn’t disappoint Emilio Estevez, you know what I’m saying?” says the exasperated coach before his team reminds him all he did was teach them how to stretch.
By the way, the FORD team name has nothing to do with Toronto’s most notable crack enthusiast. The clip was filmed at Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School in Brooklyn. Mike Will Made It’s Miley-assisted “23” video was shot there. Same goes for the Michael Moore-helmed promo for R.E.M.’s “All The Way To Reno (You’re Gonna Be A Star).” Don’t worry. We don’t remember that video existing either.
Tame Impala – “The Less I Know The Better”
Dad rock friendly Aussie psych types Tame Impala elected to use the sport as the backdrop for a love triangle that’s ensnared a player, a cheerleader, and a charismatic dunking gorilla mascot. They’re providing the “teenager fantasizing about an ape while getting eaten out” visuals that Shawn Mendes has been dropping the ball on. Seeing as Australia’s most notable basketball exports include Luc Longley, Andrew Bogut. and Matthew Dellavedova, we get why the focus is more on “THINGS FOR DRUGS” than highlight reel plays.