Chris Rock hosted Saturday Night Live the night Klay Thompson went off on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers for 41 points. It made me have nostalgic memories of the Little Penny era of Nike commercials voiced by the comedian.
Rock played a puppet-sized version of Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaway in a collection of popular ads for the NBA star’s shoes. It was director Spike Lee and Michael Jordan who took the Kicks campaigns to a new level with ‘It’s Got Be The Shoes’ in the 80’s, and Hardaway along with the new crop of talent had seemingly taken the torch from his Airness.
After retiring to play baseball and having a lackluster comeback that ended with being eliminated by the Orlando Magic, it was apparent by the commercials on television and the new young talent on the court that Michael Jordan had gotten too old.
There were visuals like Nick Anderson ripping him in the 95 playoffs, Allen Iverson crossing him up- moments where the old guy in the gym gets embarrassed by the young punk he’d just been schooling about the fundamentals of the game.
The 90’s ushered in a new era of guards like Temple’s Eddie Jones and Connecticut’s Ray Allen who grew up watching Jordan, modeled facets of their games after him, and now were in line to challenge the Master.
#AirJordan was no longer “trending.” Grant Hill’s Fila’s were hot and Shaq was breaking backboards. We had gotten over MJ.
But rumors of his demise were were greatly exaggerated. It was as if the ascension of the new young talent in the league was predicated on the decentralization of Jordan’s game.
18-years removed being drafted into the NBA, Kobe Bryant is now being offered his golden parachute to make room for the new guys in the office.
Bryant averaged 26 points 6 assists and 5 rebounds on 46% shooting from the field through 78 games prior to the Achilles’s injury. But it’s not simply health or age that are making a growing amount of people get over Kobe. It’s the influx of talent similar to the 90’s.
James Harden, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, John Wall and Russell Westbrook are lighting up the league and are changing the cultural paradigm in the process.
It was Jordan that entered the Association with baggy shorts and cool sneakers that made the NBA recognize hip-hop and it’s marketing value. Now we have The Splash Brothers, Harden’s beard, and the social-media posturing that creates the images which heavily influence today’s perception.
Iverson was dropping bars with Jadakiss in his shoe commercials while Jordan was on the green playing golf. It’s these type of connections that new generation is making that is aiding the call for Bryant to start drawing Social Security payments.
But Money Mike wasn’t quite finished. He bounced back from the debacle against Orlando to average 30 points a game and went on to win three more championships. Kobe has displayed early in the season that he still has some athleticism left, and still possess the ability to score at a high level.
Phil Jackson has confirmed that Bryant’s training is on a much higher plain than was Jordan’s, and the six-time champion himself has confirmed that Bryant shares his killer instinct and prowess.
The next generation has definitely turned a corner, but that doesn’t mean Bryant is ready to turn down.