The year was 2009, and it was supposed to finally be the year Kobe Bryant and LeBron James met in the NBA Finals and solidified their rivalry as the defining one of their generation. Kobe was still in the prime of his career, while LeBron was just entering his, and the anticipation was so great that the marketing and advertising team at Nike (in hindsight, very prematurely) released a series of commercials featuring the two superstars in Sesame-Street-style puppet form getting hyped up for their long-overdue postseason showdown.
But then fate intervened, and LeBron and his Cavs never made it that far, suffering a demoralizing loss to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals (who subsequently got steamrolled by the Lakers en route to Kobe’s first post-Shaq championship). It’s something that still stings LeBron, and he spoke about it to ESPN in the wake of Kobe’s recent announcement that he will retire after this season.
In the past, we’ve written about how it’s been Paul Pierce, above anyone else, who’s been LeBron’s chief rival in his career thus far, but if there was one good thing to come out of he and Kobe’s botched 2009 Finals showdown, it was indeed those stupid puppet commercials, which are still hilarious to this day in their own right and have taken on an added layer of unintended irony given the fact that Nike – having invested so much in their production and distribution – just stubbornly decided to keep airing them throughout the 2009 Finals. You can watch them all here in one handy nine-minute video. Enjoy.