True Hoops

True Hoops

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Favorite Basketball Commercial

I've been wanting to write this for a long time.

What do you see in this commercial?

The stages of a career, not through the individual, but through the emulation of others that one's game has influenced. Yes, this is a Jordan commercial, but more so it is a representation of the cyclical nature of the game.

We're just talking about basketball right?

Life is cyclical.
Seasons change.
Our continuous experiences allow us to grow, develop, and ultimately change into ourselves.
Is this not unlike basketball?
We start early with only an attraction for the game and youthful energy. But for those of us that stay committed, we add layers to our game - based on knowledge, skill, and strength.

But here is a question for you.
Why do we play basketball?
And here is another one: Why do we devote so much time to just a game?
Your answer is as good as mine.
I know I've asked these questions, especially as someone who has devoted a lot of time to basketball (and still do) - and never even played professionally.

It's irrational.
But I can say that sometimes it's the process of staying true to something - something that you have been passionate about for as long as you can remember. Sometimes it's being on a constant journey, the gradual process of building something, or perhaps building yourself. Sometimes we are simply drawn to the concept of committing ourselves to something fully.

Or maybe it's simply the act of doing.
And maybe that act, by itself, is what drives us.
I know for me, some of the moments that I've had the most clarity about basketball is when I am by myself.  Working, when no one is watching. Training, when no one is around to see.
The dedication.
That is truth.
That is freedom.
When you do something for the sake of doing it, on your own, because YOU choose to.
It allows us the opportunity to strive for greatness.

That choice, that act of doing, and the pursuit something greater -  that drives us.

Okay, great. But another question.
What is our reward for staying true to something?
(Of course you mean beyond the relationships that we develop through the game).

Ah, now we have come to the heart of the matter.

Well, if we do it right, if we stay true - that actually makes us stand out. That actually makes us different and separates us from most.
Of course, by staying true to something we grow and change.
But more importantly, by staying true to something, our actions can change others.
How many people do you know are truly genuine?
That sort of quality can have a profound effect on others.
Therefore what we do, on the basketball court, has the ability to inspire.

Surely, this isn't our goal. And it isn't something we realize when we are in the moment. Nor should we. We're just trying to play ball and be the best that we can be. But others take notice. And as we slow down, reaching the end (of our career?), we finally have the chance to look around at see just how many people have noticed.

The game is cyclical, we start off someplace with a hoop dream and a purpose. At some point we eventually come back to the beginning, where we have to let the game go. Maybe we question the the path we have chosen. The life we lived. The time we have spent. After all, this is just basketball. But then we see others start the same process or at various stages of their respective career. And then all of our original emotions come back to us.

The reward is knowing that we are a part of something bigger, and that our work has contributed to the progression of this cycle. Arriving at a place we have been before but seeing it from a different perspective. Seeing it from a position of acquired excellence.
The reward is seeing our game in others.

What more can we ask for than the realization of that?

Believe it or not, this commercial represents all of that.
Yes it does.

We do not see Jordan for the majority of this commercial. Instead we see his game in people of various ages, sex, and race emulating his moves.  The diversity of those in this commercial speaks to how Jordan's moves have transcended basketball. They range from simple (chewing gum) to extraordinary (his dunk from the foul line) to iconic (his championship winning jumper). All of them from different seasons of Jordan's game.

But there is so much depth to this commercial. Go back and listen to the music. It starts off simple, although with a certain profoundness that is often associated with simplicity. As the commercial advances this initial single layer keeps repeating while new layers are added during additional scenes/moves. Thus, even at the music level we have a representation of the cyclical nature of the game and the process of building as our individual games progress.

Then, we reach the pinnacle moment in the commercial where we finally see Jordan.

But this is only after a direct connection is made between a kid emulating Jordan's move and Jordan himself. We see a kid look over in his direction and shrug his shoulders in disbelief over what he is doing  on the court - a genuine emotion from someone in the moment of seeing his practiced skills come to fruition (think about that). Of course this shrug was something that Jordan created - in the '92 finals, after hitting 6 three's and scoring 35 points in the first half (Do you think the kid even knew that?). That would certainly elicit a shrug.

Two words: Empathy and gratification.

Jordan knows what emotions the kid is going through, he can relate as he has been in that sort of zone before. But also, in knowing that was his reaction, Jordan realizes how much his game has transcended his individual goals and accomplishments to become a fixture in basketball and inspiration to those that play. This may have been an unintended consequence of his dedication to the game, but is it not his most significant?

What is more significant that the act of creation?

And with this, we see Jordan smile.
Why not?

If we do it right. If we commit ourselves fully and truly, our reward is at the end of the day having an opportunity to stand to the side, with our arms folded, just watching and smiling.
That smile is our reward.

To watch others that we have influenced. To see those that have come after us, just as we came after those that influenced and paved the way for us. Wether subtly or overtly, we get to see ourselves in a continum of constant evolution. Evolving towards what? Who knows. But ultimately something more, and something further than we can understand. We know that this evolution, this process, this cycle is necessary. And we know in some form we have done our part, and that our contribution will live on past us.

I have always felt that there are secrets in life, which perhaps we never fully understand. However, in rare moments of clarity we are allowed vague glimpses. Some sort ambiguous consciousness of something greater and a recognition that we are a part of it all. 

And at the moment Jordan smiles, the music goes back to the beginning to start all over, representing that as one career ends, another begins. But this new career (or would you prefer cycle/season?) builds upon previous accomplishments and standard settings. It is the job of one generation to strive for greatness and the job of the next generation to take those achievements and add their own layers to it.

Do it.
"Let your game speak."
That choice, that act of doing, and of pursuing something greater - that drives us.
That is freedom.
That is truth.

And the cycle begins again.

By now you will surely agree it's not a coincidence at the end of the commercial the number XX1 appears, with 1 being most prominent. Yes this is a commercial for Jordan's 21st sneaker. But still, the of concept of 1 - a new beginning, after all that was previous - stands out most. Not to mention the journey to get to 1, as represented by how the XX lines are drawn out  - moving forward.

Just as sublime art is supposed to do, this commercial always makes me reflect.
It makes me think.
It makes me consider. It makes me reconsider.
It makes me see the Then, Now, and Next.
It makes me appreciate.
It makes me smile.
And mostly, it makes me grateful for being a part of it all.

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