Nike Sees Long Run With LeBron, Kobe 'Most Valuable Puppets'

May 21, 2009: Nike plans to run its new "Most Valuable Puppet" campaign, which stars caricature versions of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, through the NBA Finals in mid-to-late June, especially if the real James and Bryant cooperate with wins. Three spots in the campaign, via Weiden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore., already have broken but as many as six could be on tap staring an odd couple version of Kobe and LeBron as Jim Henson Muppets by way of Nike's Anfernee 'Lil Penny' Hardaway from the 1990s. The newest spot, "Kobe's Unstoppable Game Tape," which broke May 21, sees the LeBron puppet watching a highlight reel with the real LeBron. But the action stops and switches to a highlight reel of the real Kobe. As LeBron moans and shakes his head, a voiceover says, "Since the dawn of time man has asked the question, What makes Kobe Bryant, aka The Black Mamba, so unstoppable? What makes his dunk so unstoppable? What makes his three-pointers so unstoppable? What makes his overall unstoppableness unstoppable? Is it possible to stop something that is so unstoppable?" Then text on the screen reads, "This DVD was produced, directed and edited by Kobe Bryant, aka The Black Mamba, for LeBron." The LeBron puppet then tosses his DVD highlight reel at the Kobe puppet.

''When you go with puppets and things like that, it's kind of unlimited,'' James told the Akron Beacon Journal. ''I don't have to be there. So it's kind of unlimited how many we can do. We'll keep it going until the buzz dies down.'' And Kobe told ESPNews, “They’re great. One of the things LeBron and I have talked about is how funny it would be to see how different we are and then how funny that is together. You know what I mean? Because LeBron just goes, goes and goes. He’s high energy all the time. They say things we’d never actually say but the demeanor of it is kind of cool.”

The first spot, "Chalk," broke May 8 and showed the LeBron puppet psyching himself up for the playoffs by mirroring his real-life version's chalk-clapping pre-game ritual, eventually filling a room with dust and annoying Kobe with such rants as, "Woo! MVP! Chosen One, baby! Ohio ... Akron, Ohio, baby! Come on, Kobe, let's go down the highway!" The second spot, sees the Kobe puppet getting revenge by looking for the three title rings he has earned with the Los Angeles Lakers. "Have you seen my THREE CHAMPIONSHIP RINGS?" Kobe says to an annoyed LeBron. "I seem to have misplaced my THREE CHAMPIONSHIP RINGS. They represent the THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS that I myself have won." "This is my problem?" the LeBron puppet replies. "Kobe, I'm busy." Eventually, LeBron asks Kobe, "Have you checked your CHAMPIONSHIP RING DISPLAY CASE!?" "Will you look at that," Kobe replies as he walks to the display case. "There are my THREE CHAMPIONSHIP RINGS." "Do they have names?" a frustrated LeBron asks. "Why do we live together." Oddly, the puppets are not as yet voiced by the real players.

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