March Madness is right around the corner, and even though I’ve never been a huge fan of basketball in general, there have been aspects of it, and things attached and related to it that I’ve really enjoyed. I mean, I played basketball in grade school because it was something to do, but I was never really good at it in a team environment in the flow of the game. I will say that I have always been a hell of a shot though and even sunk 45 free throws in 60 seconds in a basketball shootout back in 5th grade. It’s a record that I think still stands all these years later.
But since basketball is going to be on everyone’s brain for about the next month, I thought for this edition of Retro Ramblings, I would highlight ten things related to basketball that I enjoyed through the years.
The Harlem Globetrotters
I don’t think anyone ever really had to be a huge fan or follower of basketball to enjoy watching The Harlem Globetrotters. Their mesmerizing passing and shooting routines and their comedy antics were always entertaining and memorable. When I was a kid in the ’80s, clips of them would be shown on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and occasionally, there would be some kind of special featuring them on TV. They took their act all over the world, and their popularity even propelled them on to guest appearances on TV shows, parts in movies, and even their own Saturday morning cartoon. The video above is just a few highlights of many they produced through the years.
Double Dribble for Nintendo
I got Double Dribble pretty early in my Nintendo owning days. I can think of four other games I owned before this, but I believe I got this for Christmas the first year I owned the system. I think my parents thought I would enjoy it since I was playing basketball in school. But the fact that I didn’t really enjoy playing basketball at school added to the fact that this was not a very good basketball game. Well, for the time it was ok, but versus other basketball games that would come for other systems later on, it doesn’t hold up. So you may be wondering why I’m including it on this list if I didn’t think much of it. Well because good or not, I played the heck out of it since I only had a few games to play at all at the time. Under those conditions, we all found ourselves spending time on games we wouldn’t have if we’d had other options. And with nostalgia mixed in from wearing it out on Christmas morning, it earned a spot on the list.
Part of what made the game less enjoyable for me was the fact that there were only four teams on the game. And since the game wasn’t endorsed or licensed by the NBA, they weren’t real teams. And the foul shot mechanics were extremely difficult to pull off. I did find a sweet spot for shooting threes though, and that animation that would take over the screen when you went to dunk the ball was pretty cool.
Dazzling Dunks and Basketball Bloopers Video
My brother got a copy of this tape when he subscribed to Sports Illustrated magazine. I can still remember the day the tape arrived. It was like an event at our house. After dinner was over, it was appointment television…we were going to watch the basketball bloopers tape. And while the bloopers weren’t all that funny, the dazzling dunks section of the tape was really cool. I especially liked the recaps of the previous few year’s worth of Slam Dunk competitions and thought they were really well put together with the narration that went along with them. I would say, without exaggeration, that I’ve watched this video at least 25 times in my life.
Collecting and Trading Basketball Cards
I always loved trading cards, but my forte was generally baseball cards when it came to my trading hobby. I also had my fair share of non-sports trading cards, but I never really had anyone else around me who collected those so I didn’t have anyone to trade them with. But at school in the very late ’80s and early ’90s, basketball cards were the currency of choice, so I jumped into those as well. I found that I really liked the 1990-1991 edition of NBA Hoops with their silver borders, and leaned toward those more than any other. That and the fact that they were about the only basketball cards I had access to at my local store, which was just the local grocer. 1991 Fleer came along, and they were so cheaply made, and so ugly that I almost gave up on the hobby. But 1991 Upperdeck and 1991 Skybox renewed my faith, and I became a fan of those was well. The video I posted above is an episode of the Wax Pack Flashback series I contribute to on The Retro Network’s TRNTV YouTube channel. I thought I’d add it here so maybe you could get the excitement of opening old packs of basketball cards again.
Dee Brown in the 1991 NBA Slam Dunk Contest
After watching that Dazzling Dunks and Basketball Bloopers tape, I was turned on to the yearly Slam Dunk Contest. It became appointment television for me all through the ’90s, but the one I remember most was the 1991 edition and the performance that Dee Brown put on.
Brown had some impressive dunks on his first couple of attempts, but it was towards the end on the competition that he transitioned from just a player dunking the basketball into a true performer. Before one of his last dunks, he took time out to “pump up” his Reebok Pumps shoes to get maximum lift on his next attempt. Rebbek Pumps were the latest craze and he capitalized on that in his performance. I imagine he was likely paid some kind of advertising fee for this, but regardless, it was cool to see.
For his final dunk of the night, and the one that won him the competition, he took off and lept into the air for his dunk, but put his arm over his eyes as he slammed it home for a “no look” dunk that rocked the crowd. It capped off a great night of all-star action and left a pretty big impression on me. My friends and I made it the first topic of conversation in homeroom on Monday morning.
Mascot Dunk Contest
I rarely ever watched NBA’s Inside Stuff show on NBC on Saturday mornings, but on all-star weekend, it was must-watch television for me because it always featured the mascot dunk contest. The mascots in their cool costumes were given a small trampoline to help them get to the rim, and with that trampoline they were able to pull off some pretty cool dunks. The Phoenix Gorilla and the Charlotte Hornet never failed to impress, but all of the mascots did a great job and added to the atmosphere of the whole day for me as I counted down to the actual All-Star Saturday Night spectacular.
MTV’s Rock and Jock Basketball
MTV used to stage some sporting events that mixed athletes from the given sport mixed with music stars, TV stars, and other personalities in a friendly exhibition game. I believe the first such contest was a Rock and Jock Softball game, but the Basketball games were the ones I ended up gravitating towards. They were always filled with MTV’s standard wackiness and over-the-top personalities that combination resulted in a pretty fun event. I’m especially fond of the 1993 version that featured the addition of the 25-point basket that would lower down within range in the last couple minutes of each half. Just watch the video for a fun-filled hour that will certainly take you back to a more fun place in time.
Pizza Hut’s Street Ball
Pizza Hut has had some of the best premium items in the history of fast food, and maybe one of their coolest offerings was their Street Balls they rolled out during March Madness for a few years in the early ’90s. Kinda like I’m doing with this post…trying to capitalize on the season. The street balls were non-standard-looking basketballs with custom prints that reflected what Pizza Hut thought the culture on the streets was like.
I had the one pictured above and used it all the time in my driveway shooting hoops by myself or playing a game of Around the World with my neighbor. I somehow felt like it made me a better player, but it probably just made me look like an even bigger doofus than I already did as a skinny, pasty-white white boy in the rural Appalachians trying to dribble between my legs on the way for a layup.
NBA Jam Tournament Edition for SNES
When NBA Jam hit local stores as an arcade cabinet, I spent quite a bit of my allowance every week pumping quarters to keep my game going from quarter to quarter and half to half and trying to win. Then along came the game for SNES and I knew I needed it in my life. I was old enough to have a job when it came out, and it didn’t take me but two weeks to have enough extra scratch to go buy the game. I played it pretty consistently, and it was a hit with my friends when they would come over for some game time. It’s still a favorite of mine today as I will fire up the SNEW emulator and play a few games of NBA Jam on it from time to time.
Celtic Pride Movie
The movie Celtic Pride came out in 1996, which was during the time that my friends and I were hitting the local theater every Tuesday night for $2 Tuesday and taking in whatever the latest flick was. When I saw the trailer for Celtic Pride, being a Celtic fan meant that we would certainly be watching the movie at some point as one of our Tuesday choices. Plus it was an easy choice as well since the cast included Daniel Stern, Dan Akroyd, and Daman Wayans meaning that it was sure to be funny as well. I don’t think anyone would ever put it on a list of the funniest movies ever, but it did have its moments. And for one night in 1996, it brought my friends and me together like other movies before it…times that I still miss today.
So there are ten basketball-related things I’ve enjoyed through the years. While I’m still not much of a basketball fan, I did enjoy going back in time and looking at all of these things again.