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An Important Discussion About The 'NBA Superstars' Videos

By / 07.12.12

If you are anything like me, you spent a substantial chunk of your childhood parked in front of the television watching VHS tapes of people doing dunks. I mean, you did other things, too — rode your bike, chucked rocks at stuff, got grounded for cussing, etc. — but, primarily, you wore out the tape on those videocassettes while eating cereal. There were a lot of these videos released in the early-to-mid ’90s, but the gold standard was the NBA Superstars series put together by Hardwood Classics.
NBA Superstars was collection of videos that contained 3-4 minute highlight packages set to popular music from the time, typically focused on an individual player, but occasionally based on a unifying theme. The first one was released in 1990, and contained montages dedicated to Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley, Isiah Thomas, and Julius Erving, as well as one about players from years past. I love it like a child. So when I found all the clips on YouTube recently, I could not have been more excited, and I felt it was important to share them all with you. Put on your doofy sweaters and grab your synthesizers, people. We’re taking a trip in the Wayback Machine.
NOTE: Did you know there is no Wikipedia entry for the NBA Superstars series? This upsets me on a number of very deep, personal levels.


NBA Superstar: Magic Johnson
Musical Accompaniment: “Control” by Janet Jackson
A conversation between Steve and Barry, two NBA Hardwood Classic producers:
STEVE: Hey, you know how Magic Johnson is a point guard?
BARRY: Right…
STEVE: And point guards are in control of the offense?
BARRY: Uh huh…
STEVE: And there’s that one Janet Jackson song called “Control”?
BARRY: Yeah…
STEVE: We should use that in the thing.
BARRY: But that song isn’t about being in control. It’s about taking control — like, from her famously domineering, evil father — and becoming a confident women.
STEVE: [blinks]
BARRY: And Magic Johnson is a boy.
STEVE: But … … he’s in control.
BARRY: [sighs] OK. Whatever. Go nuts.
The Highlights: Magic Johnson is the most amazing passer I’ve ever seen. Just look at some of the passes he throws in this video. I don’t even know how he saw some of his teammates, let alone got them the ball. If Magic Johnson played today there would be so many GIFs of his passes that it would literally grind the Internet to a halt.
Misc: Please note that the screeching tire and crash sound effect in “Control” has been synced up with a clip of Magic running someone over at the 1:13 mark. The editor responsible for this should have either been fired or put in charge of the whole company. I can’t decide.

NBA Superstar: Larry Bird
Musical Accompaniment: “Small Town” by John Mellencamp
A conversation between Steve and Barry, two NBA Hardwood Classic producers:
STEVE: Hey, I’ve got the best idea!
BARRY: Let’s hear it.
STEVE: So Larry Bird is a white guy from a small town in Indiana, right?
BARRY: Right…
STEVE: And John Mellencamp is a white guy from Indiana who sings a song called “Small Town,” right?
BARRY: OK…
STEVE: [stretches out arms and smiles as if to say "TADA!"]
BARRY: OK, that one’s pretty good.
The Highlights: I have a theory about Larry Bird. Larry Bird was one of the greatest basketball players in history, that much is undisputed. But after a watching a three-minute montage of his highlights, one thing really jumps out at you: Larry Bird was awkward. Whereas some players like Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade move fluidly from point A to point B, often making the players around them look like they’re moving in slow motion, Larry Bird was all odd angles and elbows. I honestly wonder how big a part that played in his success. NBA defenders were probably used to how NBA-caliber athletes moved and did things, so when Bird did some weird herky-jerky dribble drive, I imagine their reflexes just betrayed them. Like a boxer who has not only never faced a southpaw, but has never even considered that a person might box left-handed.
tl;dr larry bird is weird
Misc: This video is equal parts highlight package and tourism commercial for French Lick, Indiana. I wonder what the dude on the motorcycle at the 0:36 mark is up to today. My guess: still riding that same motorcycle up and down that street, by now he’s 100 pounds heavier.

NBA Superstar: Michael Jordan
Musical Accompaniment: “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin
A conversation between Steve and Barry, two NBA Hardwood Classic producers:
STEVE: Hey, I got an idea for song we can use for the Michael Jordan montage.
BARRY: Shoot.
STEVE: We can use that Top Gun song.
BARRY: “Danger Zone”? Great idea.
STEVE: Nonono. The other one. You know, “bum-bum-bum-BUM-bum”…
BARRY: “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin?
STEVE: Yeah, that’s the one!
BARRY: Uhhh… isn’t that song a little slow? Michael Jordan is one of the most dynamic players in history. Shouldn’t we use something a little more upbeat?
STEVE: Yeah, but, he “takes our breath away.” Get it? And we can just cut in a million shots of planes.
BARRY: I dunno, Steve.
STEVE: Dude. Planes. Trust me.
BARRY: Whatever. Fine.
The Highlights: I’m just going to keep yelling about this song selection. By choosing such a slow song, they backed themselves into a corner where all the clips needed to be in slow motion. Slow motion looks cool, sure, but Michael Jordan was one of the fastest players to ever play the game, and you really don’t get any sense of that here. They should have just set it to the Miami Vice theme song and let him run amok.
Misc: Michael Jordan was really good at basketball.

NBA Superstar: Akeem Olajuwon (pre-Hakeem)
Musical Accompaniment: “How Ya Like Me Now” by Kool Moe Dee
A conversation between Steve and Barry, two NBA Hardwood Classic producers:
STEVE: Hey, what song do you wanna use for Akeem Olajuwon?
BARRY: I don’t know. What do we know about him?
STEVE: He’s … uh … pretty tall. And he’s from Nigeria.
BARRY: …
STEVE: Let’s use that Kool Moe Dee song, “How Ya Like Me Now.”
BARRY: What does that song have to do with a super-tall basketball player from Nigeria?
STEVE: I really like it.
BARRY: Well so do I, but-
STEVE: GREAT! IT’S SETTLED!
The Highlights: Let me be very clear about something: I want to listen whatever song Hakeem Olajuwon is recording at the 0:15 mark more than any of you can possibly imagine. What kind of song do you think it is? I bet it’s a very smooth, early ’90s R&B jam — like something Peabo Bryson or Luther Vandross would have recorded. Hell, maybe he’s doing a cover of “Here and Now.” I would honestly pay $7 for that single on iTunes.
Misc: I like to think the first fifteen seconds of this video were the inspiration for MTV Cribs.

NBA Superstar: Dominique Wilkins
Musical Accompaniment: “Looking Glass” by Yanni
A conversation between Steve and Barry, two NBA Hardwood Classic producers:
STEVE: Hey, you know who I love?
BARRY: Who?
STEVE: Yanni.
BARRY: What?
STEVE: Yeah, Yanni. The Greek guy. We should put him in the thing.
BARRY: What?
STEVE: Yeahyeah. We can put it on the one for the Atlanta guy.
BARRY: DOMINIQUE WILKINS?!
STEVE: Yeah. It’ll be perfect.
BARRY: WHAT?!
STEVE: I’ll go see if we can get the rights.
BARRY: [rubs temples]
The Highlights: Good Lord, Dominique Wilkins dunked hard. There were definitely more artistic dunkers out there, and other players who dunked hard too, but Dominique Wilkins dunked as though the rim picked on his little brother even though he explicitly told it not to do that on no less than three occasions.
Misc: We don’t see Dominique dunk a single time until the 1:41 mark of the video. F-

NBA Superstar: Charles Barkley
Musical Accompaniment: “The Warrior” by Scandal featuring Patty Smyth
A conversation between Steve and Barry, two NBA Hardwood Classic producers:
STEVE: Charles Barkley is a pretty tough guy, huh?
BARRY: Seems like it.
STEVE: We should give him a real tough guy song.
BARRY: Like what? Guns N’ Roses? Metallica?
STEVE: I was thinking about “The Warrior.” You know, because warriors are tough.
BARRY: Isn’t that the song a lady sings about hunting down a guy she likes?
STEVE: I dunno. She says “warrior” a lot, though.
BARRY: How did you get this job?
STEVE: David Stern is my uncle.
BARRY: That makes sense.
The Highlights: One of the few problems with Charles Barkley being so great in his second career as an analyst is that I think people are starting to forget what an amazing player he was. Look at the clip at the 1:20 mark. He picks up the ball at the three-point line and proceeds to slice through the entire Portland Trailblazer defense. All five of them. Yes, Charles Barkley is a funny guy who speaks his mind and we all love him for it, but dude could also ball. Just ask Patrick Ewing’s face at 1:37.
Misc: In addition to all the clips of Charles dunking and blocking shots, we also get lots of shots of him spiking the ball at people and yelling and screaming like a total loon. Charles Barkley is the best.

NBA Superstar: Isiah Thomas
Musical Accompaniment: “The Right Stuff” by Vanessa Williams
A conversation between Steve and Barry, two NBA Hardwood Classic producers:
STEVE: Hey, how do you feel about Vanessa Williams?
BARRY: She’s cool, I guess.
STEVE: Let’s put her in the thing.
BARRY: The basketball video?
STEVE: Yeah, we can use her for the Isiah Thomas one.
BARRY: I was thinking we could use Bobby Brown for that. He has this new song called “My Prerogative” that would fit really well with Isiah and the Bad Boy Pistons.
STEVE: I don’t like Bobby Brown.
BARRY: Why?
STEVE: He seems mean.
BARRY: [drinks at desk]
The Highlights: Isiah Thomas is all of the following things: 1) A horrible executive; 2) Kind of a jerk, by most accounts; 3) One of the best undersized players ever. Despite standing only 6’1″, he was the unquestioned on- and off-court leader of a team that won two NBA titles. That is insane. He also wasn’t allowed to be on the Dream Team because Michael Jordan hated him, burned the Continental Basketball Association to the ground, and was sued for sexual harassment while running the Knicks and it resulted in Stephon Marbury testifying about having sex with a team intern in a parked SUV outside a strip club. Isiah has a complicated legacy.
Misc: From a non-basketball perspective, this is the best video in the collection. BY FAR. There are heavily-edited high fives (0:40), old school Batman-style graphics (“BAM!”), and a bunch of shots of extremely 1980s basketball fans dancing and celebrating. The Heat Bros ain’t got nothing on some of those people.

NBA Superstar: Julius Erving
Musical Accompaniment: “Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston
A conversation between Steve and Barry, two NBA Hardwood Classic producers:
STEVE: Hey, what are you doing?
BARRY: I’m packing up my things. I quit.
STEVE: What?! Why?! We’ve only got one song left to pick!
BARRY: Pick whatever you want.
STEVE: Oo, I know! I’ll use that Whitney Houston song that my wife likes!
BARRY: [grumbles something about wishing he became a dentist]
The Highlights: I KNOW DR. J WAS RETIRING BUT SERIOUSLY STOP SETTING HIGHLIGHTS PACKAGES OF EXCITING PLAYERS TO SLOW SONGS OK THANKS.
Misc: The only positive of selecting “Greatest Love of All” is that it starts with the line about believing children are our future, and they used it as an excuse to show a kid doing an awesome dunk on a miniature hoop and then celebrating like a huge prima donna. I like that kid. They should have given him his own montage.

NBA Superstar: A bunch of them throughout the league’s history
Musical Accompaniment: “This Is The Time” by Billy Joel
A conversation between monologue by Steve and Barry, two the NBA Hardwood Classic producers:
STEVE: Man, Barry was a real jerk for quitting this close to the end. Whatever. GOOD. I don’t need him. All the great ideas we came up with were mine anyway. Hey, speaking of great ideas, I should put together that package of really old clips I was thinking about last night. I can use that Billy Joel song about remembering stuff. If there’s one thing I know to be absolutely 100% true, it’s that basketball fans — all of them, without exception — love Billy Joel. Solid gold, Steve. Solid gold.
The Highlights: There really aren’t a ton of highlights in this one. It’s more just “Yo, remember this guy? Here’s like two seconds of him making a layup.” A fitting tribute to the pioneers of the game, indeed.
Misc: If any of you can explain to me, to my satisfaction, why there are clips of Martin Luther King, Jr., The Beatles, and the moon landing in a highlight package ostensibly dedicated to basketball, I will give you $5,000. I am not even joking.


TAGSBASKETBALLCHARLES BARKLEYDOMINIQUE WILKINSHAKEEM OLAJUWONISIAH THOMASJULIUS ERVINGLarry BirdMAGIC JOHNSONmichael jordanNBANBA SUPERSTARSTHE 1980S

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