By Barry Janoff
December 20, 2012: On Christmas Day, 1984, Bernard King of the New York Knicks went ball-istic against the then New Jersey Nets, scoring 60 points during a game in Madison Square Garden.
On Christmas Day, 2012, the NBA will unveil a commercial under its BIG umbrella campaign, "The King of New York," that looks back at the game, during which King set a Knicks' single-game scoring mark that still stands.
The new spot is directed by and stars über-New York Knicks fan, Spike Lee, who recalls the game as being one of his all-time favorite Knicks' moments at "the world's most famous arena."
The commercial will air during the NBA's Christmas slate of games on ESPN and ABC. Lee will also direct another commercial for the BIG effort to break later in the season. Both will go into rotation during NBA telecasts across all media partners, including TNT and NBA TV.
The NBA's lead agency is Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.
Lee is in a car driving through New York as he talks about King and the game. "This is a story about BK from BK — Bernard King from Brooklyn, NY. It's 1984 and the Garden is packed. I'm sitting in the last row. I can touch the roof."
In the 60-point game, King scored 40 points at halftime, and finished with 19 of 30 shooting from the field and 22 of 26 from the free throw line. Despite King's scoring outburst, the Knicks lost to the Nets, 120-114.
As clips from the game play out, Lee exclaims, "Bernard King, he was giving the Nets the business. Ten, 20, 40 points. The second half, 50, 60 points! He was stopping' and poppin'!" Postin' and toasting'! All hail the King!"
With a nod to how the Knicks-Nets rivalry has been revitalized this season with the Nets' move to Brooklyn and both teams vying for leadership in their division, Lee says, "You know what? You never know who's gonna wear the crown next" as a billboard shot of Carmelo Anthony appears on-screen.
Closing text reads, "Royalty Is . . . BIG." (See the full spot here.)
In addition to directing such films as She's Gotta Have It, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever and He Got Game, Lee has helmed several classic TV commercials, including a series for Nike's Jordan Brand in which Lee played the role of Mars Blackmon, a character he originated in She's Gotta Have It.
Nike has used the Mars Blackmon character again in spots over the past two years. Lee also hosted a Nike event this month in New York to unveil the Air Jordan XX8 kicks.
NBA teams playing on Dec. 25 will wear new jerseys from adidas specifically designed for the Christmas games, which has been supported by a BIG TV spot with Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Joe Johnson. Each of those players will be in action during the day-night NBA marathon.
One year ago, the games on Christmas 2011 marked opening day of the 2011-12 season following an NBA lockout. Viewership averaged 35 million, the highest of any NBA Christmas Day games in a decade, according to the league.
The 60-point output was a single-game NBA scoring record at Madison Square Garden until Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers dropped 61 during a 126-117 win against the Knicks there on Feb. 2, 2009.
King, whose brother Albert played in the NBA from 1981-1991, scored 19,655 points during a career that stretched from 1977-1993, including four seasons with the Nets. In addition to the 60-point game, he also had 50-point totals in consecutive games during the 1983-84 season. During a February game later in the 1984-85 season, he scored 55 points in another match-up against the Nets.
Like King, Lee is also a native of Brooklyn.
The NBA's Christmas Day schedule: Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets (ESPN), New York Knicks at Los Angeles Lakers (ABC), Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat (ABC), Houston Rockets at Chicago Bulls (ESPN) and Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers (ESPN).
NBA Stars Are BIG In NBA, Adidas Holiday-Themed Spot