When the NBA tipped off on Dec. 25, after a 149-day lockout, TV viewers were presented with a gift sure to melt even the most Scroogeian hoops fan's heart. TNT's coverage opened with a one-minute, 53-second montage of game footage that, Forrest Gump--like, put the stars of NBA past and present together on the same court. There was Larry Bird feeding a wide-open Ray Allen. Kobe Bryant fast-breaking with Magic Johnson. Michael Jordan fist-bumping Derrick Rose. The spot, set to Live Forever by Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors and entitled NBA Forever, made the impossible appear thrillingly real.
"People needed something to feel good about the NBA, and they found [it] in this piece, which was an unintended side effect," says Drew Watkins, the creative director at Turner Sports, whose team produced the spot. "We just wanted to do something unique."
Pulling that off required three weeks of round-the-clock work—the color of some uniforms had to be changed frame by frame, for example—and the spot wasn't wrapped until 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
"Had you seen the piece a week before it aired, you would have laughed," Watkins says. "But it all came together." Kind of like the NBA season itself.