Every summer, NBA superstars travel the world to promote the interests of their personal brands and the shoe and apparel companies that support them. For the most part, these events are pretty nondescript — the athlete says some things about his shoe and career, the massive corporation gets to reach out to various consumers, and fans abroad get a little closer to a sports league that can often seem to take place in another world altogether.
The really wonderful moments of these events, though, come when everyone involved thinks that mashing two cultures together will create a delightful result and not a thoroughly confusing scene. Take, for instance, this clip from 1996, in which Michael Jordan referees a basketball game between fellow Nike endorsers Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd, Michael Finley, and three sumo wrestlers, including the American-born Akebono (via Deadspin):
A template for what Nike has in mind was established with "Hoop Heroes," an event in Tokyo earlier this month.
Held on two consecutive nights, each event was a slickly produced, 2-hour show headlined by Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and other Nike basketball endorsers.
High on entertainment values like music and lighting, and heavy on athlete-spectator interaction, the show even had some NBA stars challenging a group of Japan's best sumo wrestlers to a game of basketball.
It's hard to say what this quasi-competition offered fans beyond the peculiarity of its existence. It's somewhat comparable to if the Harlem Globetrotters got logey off ribs and the Washington Generals all gained lots of weight. No one looks particularly excited to participate. For that matter, the "highlights" are far below what fans would get from a normal exhibition game. And Michael Jordan didn't even play!
Yet here we are 18 years later, marveling at the fact that this thing exists at all. The description of the video may be just as good as the footage, but sometimes a really weird explanation is a joy in itself.
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