The NBA kicked off its season in predictably insane style on Sunday, but Opening Day’s pièce de résistance may have come prior to the official commencement of the new basketball year.
As a lead-up to the season’s first game, the masterminds at TNT dimmed the lights and unveiled their latest promotional wonder: a jaw-dropping video entitled ‘NBA Forever.’
That understated music and clever editing is enough to soften the heart of even the coldest basketball purist, the most detached internet cynic, and the most jaded of NBA fans. It’s technology as a conduit for real emotion, and though the game’s underlying sentiment may often be obscured in the league’s day-to-day, this promo — in just two short minutes — manages to bring us all back.
Conceptually, ‘NBA Forever’ is simple enough. The creators merely threaded together footage of the game’s legends with video of its current stars, an idea which had already been explored in NBA 2k12 and an online ocean’s worth of photoshopped images. Yet the restraint in this particular spot is what grants it such incredible power.
It would be so easy for ‘NBA Forever’ to tap into the highlight vein, but Dr. J’s swooping reverse, Havlicek’s infamous steal, and Magic’s game-winning hook are nowhere to be found. Instead, we’re given a feed of undistinguished moments in an adjacent basketball universe. Tim Duncan casually chats with Bill Walton. Amar’e Stoudemire rides the high of a dunk by chest bumping Patrick Ewing. A blunt spotlight is replaced with a warm glow, and the entirety of the NBA timeline collapses into itself.
Highlights mean plenty to the basketball faithful; after all, we may never forget the setting or company as a playoff series was decided or a miraculous shot was converted. But those singular moments don’t make an NBA fan, nor consummate one. They’re tasty morsels with instant recall, but they’ve been distilled down to their most easily transmitted components for the sake of universal appeal. We all remember those frozen moments — of change, of success, and of crumbling failure — but those contextless memories are frigid without a proper home.
They find that home — that hearth — in the ongoing story of a beautiful game and the men who play it. We all gather around the warmth of the NBA narrative, and bathe in the radiance of grainy film and instant nostalgia. All of us are drawn in by an infinite fire, as the chords progress, the drums build, and a love of the game is elegantly juxtaposed with faded images of the beloved.
With that rolling cymbal, the designations of past and present become irrelevant; this game is shown as the endless stream that it is, where players and stories merge but never fade. Together, they forge that inextinguishable flame around which all basketball fans gather. Together, they live forever, etched side by side in the memory of a game unlike any other.