As much as the dictates of the calendar occasionally present an opportunity for the NFL to air games on Christmas Day, the NBA rules Dec. 25 in the much same way in which Santa has dominion over the North Pole. In a bid to further underscore how televised basketball is now a holiday staple alongside more suspect traditions such as mistletoe, fruitcake and egg nog, ESPN and jolly old St. Nick have teamed up to declare "Xmas" the official holiday of the NBA.
As part of a campaign that will begin rolling out Friday on ESPN's various TV and digital platforms, comic actor Jon Glaser has donned the Santa suit for a series of spots featuring NBA stars Ben Simmons, J.R. Smith, John Wall, Nick "Swaggy P" Young and Bradley Beal. (The Knicks' Balkan beanstalk Kristaps PorziÅ†Ä£is, he of the 8-foot wingspan, appears in a cameo of sorts as a unicorn.)
Among the more effective promos are one that demonstrates rookie phenom Simmons' preternatural cookie-snatching quickness and Golden Stater Young's request to Glaser Claus to "take me to space." Oakland agency Funworks conceived the new spots.
Glaser, who is perhaps best known for portraying Pawnee orthodontist/city councilman Jeremy Jamm on NBC's "Parks and Recreation," said that Smith and Young were the only players who seemed amenable to sitting on Santa's lap. Even so, some studio magic was conjured up to ensure that the 5' 10" Glaser didn't have his spindly femurs snapped by his considerably larger guests.
"We made a rig that made it look like they were sitting on my lap," Glaser says of the L.A. shoot. "We kind of had to fake it a little bit so I wasn't absorbing all of their crushing weight."
Once the risk of having his leg bones crushed into a fine powder were alleviated, Glaser says the trickiest part of the ESPN gig was getting into Santa's head. "I was like, 'Who is this guy? What's he all about? Did he ever want to be an athlete? If so, is he resentful in any way?'," Glaser says. "I wanted to do him justice; it was really a matter of not insulting the man."
Read the full story on Glaser and ESPN's NBA holiday effort here.