By Barry Janoff
December 16, 2016: NBA players can pass, shoot, dunk, dribble and score points.
But can they sing?
Several NBA stars are put to the test in a multi-platform campaign, "The Most Dunktastic Time of the Year," to support the league’s five-game schedule on Christmas Day (ABC and ESPN).
In a lead spot, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Zach Levine, Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade, Draymond Green, Victor Oladipo and D’Angelo Russell sing new words to "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," a holiday classic made famous by Andy Williams.
Some of the players can carry a tune. None will make it to The Voice.
"It’s the most dunktastic time of the year,: Griffin, wearing a Santa hat, croons as he sits behind a piano. The others continue, “Behind-the-back-passes/While driving through traffic/Taking the ball to the hole/Slam dunks we’ll be making/Shot blocks so amazing/And three-pointers from the first row.”
A choir, comprised of fans outfitted in NBA holiday gear, chimes, “It’s the most dunktastic time of the year.”
The San Antonio Spurs mascot, The Coyote, even has a cameo. (See the full spot here.)
"The Most Dunktastic Time of the Year" will break tonight (Dec. 16) during NBA games on ESPN, then go into rotation through the holidays on TNT, NBA TV, NBA.com, BET, VH1 and elsewhere.
The spot, as well as a companion blooper reel — which shows the players even more off-key, missing cues and dropping props — will live on social media including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The NBA will also post the spots on its international Web sites.
According to the NBA, "Sometimes there is so much good NBA basketball on TV that you can't help but break into song. This Christmas, the NBA has gift-wrapped five of the season's best match-ups into one action-packed day. With the help of our players and dozens of fans, the NBA has put its own spin on the classic 'The Most Dunktastic Time of the Year.'"
To help further spread the word about it’s Christmas Day schedule, an app from Musical.ly will enable people to lip-sync to the song while watching a clip from the TV spot.
The NBA will hit the streets with carolers in New York and other cities, singing "The Most Dunktastic Time of the Year." The NBA Store in NY will have "Dunktastic" activation beginning today.
Lead agency is The Marketing Arm, New York.
Separately, ESPN has been running a series of spots promoting the NBA Christmas schedule on ESPN and sibling ABC starring "NBA Commissioner" Santa Claus, via Wieden+Kennedy, New York.
In one spot, Santa gets a FaceTime from Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks, a native of Latvia. But Santa can only say, "Hello, Kristaps," in that language and is clueless when Porzingis, thinking Santa knows much more, begins a conversation in Latvian. In "Rookie Commissioner," while being interviewed, he answers the burning question: "Who looks better in red velvet — you or Russell Westbrook?"
In another, Santa is wearing "Headphones," dancing to to a music track, which turns out to be a loop of bells jingling, which he wants to send to Russell Westbrook. In another, he gets a call from Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr — "He has everything! What could he want?" Santa asks a nearby helper. Kerr, it turns out, wants a new clipboard, a reference to the one he smashed during Game 1 of the NBA Finals last season.
NBA partners are also in on the action. Special Xmas jerseys, sweatshirts, T-shirts and hats are available from adidas; Xmas NBA socks are from Stance.
The NBA has found a nice ratings home on Dec. 25, with this year marking the 14th time it has scheduled five games for national TV on Christmas.
Last year, a 2015 NBA Finals rematch from the previous June between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers averaged almost 11 million viewers, "the most-watched Christmas game in four years," according to the league.
Overall, the Christmas 2015 five-game schedule was up 6% in viewership over 2014 on ESPN and ABC.
NBA Christmas Day Schedule (ET)
• Noon: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks ESPN
• 2:30 PM: Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers ABC
• 5 PM: Chicago Bulls at San Antonio Spurs ABC
• 8 PM: Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder ESPN
• 10:30 PM: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers ESPN