UPFRONT;NIKE: STREET SLAMMIN'

Published on .

When kids began swiping the Nike NYC basketball ads from subways and bus shelters, Wieden & Kennedy copywriter Jimmy Smith knew they were onto something. "If they're that hot," Smith says of the posters that celebrate New York street basketball heroes, "we thought, Then what if we make them move?"

So Smith, teaming with art director John Jay, transformed the ads into a 94-second animated film that's running in New York theaters. Backed with a funk/soul groove from RTG Music, New York, the film brings former graffitist Jav Michalski's ghostlike figures to the court in an exciting game that pits Los Angeles against an all-star New York lineup, a mix that includes Peewee Kirkland, Joe Hammond and Jackie Jackson.

After a minute filled with slam dunks, spectacular passes and heated tipoffs, the scoreboard shows New York leading 81 to 80. "With seven seconds left in the game," yells the Duke, an announcer drafted from New York's blacktop scene, we see an L.A. player go up for a basket. Jackie Jackson flies up and blocks the shot with such force that the ball explodes in a starburst of leather. "New York wins! New York wins!" the Duke bellows over the PA.

The players not only make up a dream team-bringing together people who competed during the '60s and '70s, explains Jay, but they're also a mix of bona fide NBA players and old school players, whose legends are based solely on their performance on schoolyard courts. The spray painted and Macintosh rendered illustrations first garnered attention over a year ago, when W&K painted them at Brooklyn basketball court mural.

"We always wanted them to come to life," says Jay, explaining how the animation plays with players' viewpoints and is set against sparse backgrounds to create the illusion of space. And the cinema spot is being treated as a film in its own right, being promoted with teaser outdoor boards and promotional leaflets.

Julia Tortolani of Radical Media, New York, directed the cel animation, augmented by New York Tape House Digital's computer animation and color by Tape

In this article:
Most Popular