Nike Spot Marks Latest Michael Jordan Retirement Attempt

By Published on .

Client: Nike
Agency: Weiden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Star Rating: 3.5

All right. Just this one time.

Just this one time, we simply don't care if the Nike commercial will sell a

Spike Lee stars as Mars Blackmon in the Nike tribute to Michael Jordan's latest retirement.
single pair of sneakers. We don't care if the biggest part of the sneaker-purchasing public will have no idea who the character is, or why he is suddenly appearing on TV to talk about Michael Jordan, who used to be a professional athlete.

God of basketball and advertising
All we know is that Mars Blackmon, Spike Lee's goofy bike-messenger character from She's Gotta Have It (1986) has returned to pay tribute to the god of basketball and advertising. When Jordan sank two meaningless free throws Wednesday night, courtesy of a wink-wink backcourt foul by Philadelphia's Eric Snow, the most majestic sporting career since Babe Ruth's came to an end.

Isn't it tragic when players so sadly past their prime turn themselves into freak-show acts because they just can't let go? Hampered by age -- he's 40 -- and a substandard Washington Wizards team, Jordan disgraced himself in his final season by scoring only 20 points a game. To put that in perspective, NBA multimillionaires Juwan Howard, Latrell Sprewell, Jason Kidd, Elton Brand and Rasheed Wallace averaged 18 points a game. Average age: 29.

As we said: a god. If he weren't playing in the capital, that might be in capitals.

Inseparable from Nike
The main beneficiary of Jordan's virtuosity for the past two decades has been the

whole world, which idolizes the man. A close second would be Nike, which invested tens of millions of dollars in Michael and reaped tens of billions. Air Jordan and all he stood for became inseparable from Nike and all it stood for, which happened to be everything to do with the drama, the beauty, the exhilaration, the challenge and the mysterious divinity of sport.

So who cares if the commercial is sufficiently targeted or product-centered? It's just plain Nike irresistible. And, even if it weren't -- if there weren't so much as a shoelace to be sold -- a tribute was certainly in order. So who better than Mars, whose quirky Nike encounters with Jordan from "back in the day," as he puts it in the farewell spot, juxtaposed his Airness with the nerdy urban blowhard's Everyman. They were sweet and funny a decade ago, and sweet and funny now.

"Yo, Mars Blackmon here with my main man, Michael Jordan, on speed dial," Lee says to begin a frenetic 30-second montage of Brooklyn, where Mars periodically de-bikes to pester Michael about retirement "Yo, Money, it's me," he says, when Jordan picks up the phone.


Goodbye, again
We hear only Jordan's voice as he eventually recognizes the caller and confirms again and again that he is leaving the game. "Yes, Mars. Yes, Mars. Yes, Mars." But, even at the end, Mars is disbelieving. "Arrivederci? Sayonara? Adios? Auf wiedersehen? So long? Goodbye? Farewell? For good?" And, finally, in a wiseacre reference to Jordan's first retirement, from the Chicago Bulls, "Again?"

"Goodbye, Mars," Michael Jordan says, and then, just vanishes. Seldom has a naked dial tone been so poignant.

Goodbye, Money.

Most Popular