Somebody didn’t get the memo on Kobe-LeBron

Take a good look at this matchup, because we may not see it in the finals after all.

Take a good look at this picture, because we may not see it in the finals after all. (AP photo)

In some recent shoe commercials straight out of commissioner David Stern’s dream world, the NBA’s two biggest stars and marketing centerpieces are depicted as cute but feuding Muppets, taunting each other about the upcoming playoffs.

In one, the “Kobe” Muppet walks around the house, asks the “LeBron” Muppet, “Have you seen my three championship rings?” and then likens them to delicious chocolate-chip cookies and says, “You’ve gotta be hungry, LeBron.” In another, the excited “LeBron” Muppet follows an irritated Kobe around, constantly clapping his chalk-dusted hands to create mountains of powder.

Funny stuff. But like so many marketing ventures, it may end up being more fluff than substance.

The NBA wants Kobe-LeBron. TV executives, sponsors and fans want Kobe-LeBron. Your mom wants Kobe-LeBron and she doesn’t even like basketball.

One-name stars have a certain cachet, especially when they’re also the two best players in the league. But there’s a decent chance the long-hyped, Stern-dreamt, take-that-mister-Magic-and-Bird-things-ain’t-like-they-used-to-be, LeBron James-Kobe Bryant titanic finals collision just isn’t going to happen.

Leagues love stars. But if you’re Orlando or Denver or any of the NBA teams whose season already is over, you love this. Why? Because it reaffirms that as much as the NBA is a star-driven league, one thing hasn’t changed: Teams win championships.

“We all want to think, even if we don’t have one of those stars, we can have a club that can compete,” Hawks general manager Rick Sund said. “We all want to think, ‘We can do what Detroit did when they won a championship. We can go out there together and be elite.’ Sometimes the media doesn’t believe it and the readers don’t believe it. But people in the NBA believe it, and I guarantee you [coaches] Stan Van Gundy and George Karl and their staffs believe it.”

Atlanta’s Dwight Howard is the Orlando Magic’s biggest star. He’s known mostly for his defense, not Muppet commercials.

He’s also not oblivious to where the national focus has been.

“We have a chance to win, you know?” Howard said after the Magic took a 2-1 lead Sunday in the Eastern Conference finals. “And if we go out there and play, we shouldn’t worry about what we see on TV, the commercials, the write‑ups, whatever.

“Do we find it disrespectful that they’re counting us out? Yeah. But there is nothing we can control. What we can control is how hard we play on the court, and that’s when we get the job done.”

James and the Cavaliers swept their first two playoff series. They were 43-2 at home until the Orlando series. Then the Magic nearly swept two games in Cleveland. The only reason Orlando is not up 3-0 is a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by James in Game 2.

Bryant has fared slightly better than James. But his Lakers struggled with a Yao-less, wow-less but hard-working and physical Houston team in the second round and were stretched to seven games. Denver then split the first two games of the West finals and led Game 3 in the fourth before the Lakers pulled it out.

The Cavaliers (66-16) had the league’s best record this season. But Sund was on record before the year and again before the playoffs as saying Orlando was the East’s best team. It’s just that the people who write commercials for Nike and Vitaminwater (which also may change a Kobe-LeBron campaign in midstream) didn’t listen.

“As a league, we used to be promote teams,” Sund said. “Now we promote stars. Even when Magic was playing, it wasn’t Magic, it was ‘Showtime.’ With Bird and the Celtics, it was tradition.”

Just not as exciting, is it?

HAVEN’T SEEN THE MUPPET COMMERCIALS? HERE YOU GO:

29 comments Add your comment

BravesFan79

May 25th, 2009
4:53 pm

Screw Queen James and Kobe…… Go Orlando and Denver!!
Its a shame T-mac and Yao got hurt, Houston would of been the best team in the NBA this year!

BravesFan79

May 25th, 2009
4:54 pm

Anyone else think watching Birdman is more exciting than watching kobe/lebron?
Who said White men cant jump!??

country boy

May 25th, 2009
5:43 pm

Hello Jeffy boy !!! Unfortunately I must raise a complaint about your blog. When the format changed a few short months ago you promised us “cheesecake” … an obvious diversion from readers having to endure your new picture. However the cheesecake has been too few and far between. I know, I know – Sheryl Crow and a few cheerleaders. I look forward to the upcoming countdown as I am sure you will want to rectify your stated shortcoming. Would a nudie of Danica kill you ????

Joe Johnson

May 25th, 2009
7:09 pm

Seeing all these Kobe-Lebron commercials is…TIRING!!

freshd

May 25th, 2009
8:34 pm

I DON”T SEE ALL THAT JOKING AND CLOWNING ON THE CLEVELAND BENCH. THAT ARE NOT PLAYING THE HAWKS AND PISTONS. FUNNY HOW LOSING CAN WIPE A SMILE OFF THEIR FACE, AND THE REFEREES ARE A JOKE.

freshd

May 25th, 2009
8:34 pm

NRBQ

May 25th, 2009
9:01 pm

It’s a holiday, Jeff. I think Ted may be deep in his cups.

So I’ll step in, and say raise a glass to vets everywhere, if you are still able.

The Phenomenal One

May 25th, 2009
9:30 pm

I think the puppets are rather cute and funny. But it gives me a lil amount of satisfaction to see Cleveland being humbled. I don’t think the Lakers were as arrogant as the Cavs though. Anything can happen in the NBA so, I won’t be too quick to count the Cavs or the Lakers out of the Finals just yet.

It’s good to read that Dwight and the Magic believe that they are winners.

Jeff Schultz

May 25th, 2009
9:32 pm

Sorry Countyboy. I’ll try to accomodate you. Oh look! Beach volleyball’s coming to town. Hmmm.

Joe: Chill.

Freshd: Agreed. You can tell things have gotten a lot more serious in Cleveland. For one thing, LeBron hasn’t even planned any post-game parties on the road (as far as I know).

NRBQ: Raising as we speak. Here’s to all vets and those currently serving.

[...] Jeff Schultz | ajc.com – [...]

O'brien

May 25th, 2009
11:54 pm

What’s frustrating to me is to see Lebron get all these bogus calls. They called a foul on Hedo (saying he hit Lebron in the head on LBJ’s shot attempt), and a bogus call on Dwight Howard when he fouled out of last night’s game (when Lebron shot a 3, Howard got all ball). Those are just 2 examples. Earlier in the year when the Cavs played the Hawks, the refs made a similar call on Horford, sending James to the free throw line for the game winner. When will the refs call the game fair?

Mr. Schultz, I am a big Hawks fan, and they have so many options this offseason, resign Bibby, trade the 19th pick, bring Chills back etc. I would like to know what do you think (realistically) the Hawks should do this offseason to take another step up? And what do you think the Hawks will do?

calico

May 26th, 2009
3:23 am

Joe needs to have a big year next year and Josh needs to average a double-double for us to play with the big boys. Sund please do not blow this draft and free agency.

GO HAWKS!!!!

Sautee Dawg

May 26th, 2009
7:47 am

Jeff
So David Stern is the one who wants James/Bryant match-up. This explains the calls that James has been getting. He averages 1.5 fouls per game while Dwight Howard averages fouling out. Not to mention 3 to 4 traveling calls per game that could be called on James that seems to be called on everybody else. Makes you wonder how Howard and Orlando got out of Boston with a game 7.

YesMa'am

May 26th, 2009
8:47 am

I’m so tired of those commercials. Also, the Dwayne Wade/Charles Barkley commercials must be airing 100 times a game.

Richard Hamilton

May 26th, 2009
9:31 am

I have no desire to see Kobe/Lebron. I’m rooting for Dwight Howard all the way, he is somewhat humble and down to earth. Lebron is so full of himself if makes you want to throw up. I never liked MJ that much, mainly because he terrorized the hawks, but he was the best player on the court and he played a team game. Lebron is more the equivalent to the star act in Cirque du Soliel (spelling anyone?)

Winder,GA Dawg

May 26th, 2009
10:06 am

team basketball went out the window with the old lakers-celtics championship games. We are now in the me mode of sports. team is an outdated term. it’s all about shoe contracts and tv face time, and how many Hummers are parked in your driveway!! When MJ retired, we were introduced to a new wave of young thugs with criminal backgrounds and no sense of right and wrong. What a joke, most of them throw their money away and have nothing to show for it at the end of their careers. IS IT COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON YET !!!!!!

Elmo

May 26th, 2009
10:45 am

Just don’t care. When will it be over ? Orlando – Denver in the Title ? Yeah Baby. Screw the brass at the Networks.

Baltimore Bullet

May 26th, 2009
10:59 am

It’s the NBA. I can guarantee you that the finals will feature Kobe and LeBron. It has all been decided in advance. And each semi-final series will go 7 games. Ratings. Ratings. Ratings.

Pompano

May 26th, 2009
11:23 am

Anyone watching the officiating knows that the NBA will get their Kobe/Lebron matchup. This league is on the same par as the World Wrestling Federation when it comes to fixing outcomes of games.

NBA – Not Basketball Anymore

LL

May 26th, 2009
11:57 am

Lebron was totally disrespectful of the Hawks during the 2nd round series. Clowning on the bench and sidelines, scheduling parties in between games, and of course that self promoting and increasingly annoying chalk toss. It’s great to see him being humbled against Orlando. Now if the refs would just stop allowing him to freely charge into and over opponents, calling fouls when anyone is in the same zip code, we just may be able to send him away for more maturing.

[...] matchup into further peril, which of course would lead to the crumbling of Western Civilization.  NBA commissioner David Stern and several lieutenants put out leg out the window when Orlando took a 2-1 series lead over Cleveland. For what it’s worth, an Orlando-Denver [...]

Ellis St. John

May 26th, 2009
12:29 pm

Mark my words!!! THE FINALS MATCH-UP WILL INDEED BE LEBRON VS. KOBE!!! Not necessarily because those are the two best teams, but because David Stern, ABC, the NBA, Nike Corp., Vitamin water, the referees, and Madison Avenue demands it. Just you watch.

Ellis St. John

May 26th, 2009
12:30 pm

Enter your comments here

Drez

May 26th, 2009
12:50 pm

Hey Winder,GA Dawg,

Stop generalizing the NBA as thugs and criminals. I’m willing to bet my house that your UGA college football team has had more players in trouble with the law in the past 2 years than the Atlanta Hawks have in the last 10.

Sadik R.

May 26th, 2009
12:56 pm

NBA is fixed, it will be Lebron-Kobe in the end. The way the referees are calling fouls in Magic-Cavs series, reminds me of the 2002 Western conference finals (Kings-Lakers) series.

Chris "The Birdman" Anderson

May 26th, 2009
1:12 pm

RISE UP…DENVER???

Trey J

May 26th, 2009
1:36 pm

I know Nike won’t agree but the best thing for the league would be a Denver Nuggets vs. Orlando Magic series.
It would showcase the TEAM and young stars nobody talks about (except real NBA fans) like Mello, JR Smith, and Howard, Rashard Lewis. It would also setup great for talk about leadership that Billups is bringing to Denver and how there really is coaching in the NBA.
This would definitely prove that Star power is great but overated and how commericals don’t win Championships (even though the Muppets with Kobe and King James are great).
It would make folks realized that you don’t need a Superstar to win a championship.
The Hawks are building that here so take a look at Denver and Orlando, and how they are doing it the right way. “Keep in mine not everybody can have a Kobe or James, but every team can win if they get talent and good coaching”.

[...] Count Magic superstar center and Atlanta native Dwight Howard among those who have heard just about enough. And the AJC’s own Jeff Schultz isn’t far behind Howard in the enough is enough line. [...]

Manny

May 26th, 2009
2:47 pm

It’s not the nba pushing those commercials it’s Nike pushing their stars.