The Weekside: The 15 greatest commercials that built the legends of Kobe, KG, and Tim Duncan


Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Tim Duncan may be gone, but they’ll never be forgotten due to all the legendary commercials they left behind.

The triple loss of Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett doesn’t hurt that much from a basketball sense. On the court, outside of Timmy — and that one curtain call by Mamba — it feels like these guys have been gone for awhile.

It’s more the loss of an era that stings.

In one fell swoop, us aging kids went from getting to still pretend the old guard were meaningful to having to fully realize that the league now belongs to people who were born 15 minutes ago.

It’s sad.

But this isn’t all just “back in my day” belly-aching. There are fundamental changes.

One of them is how we collectively experience the NBA. There was a time when League Pass didn’t exist and highlights had to be sought out. Some you could only read about. Now everything worth seeing becomes a Vine within 60 seconds, and there isn’t the same universal experience with watching the games. You can spend the whole season living in California and watching nothing but Heat games.

That also means commercials have lost their once-colossal magnitude. While the live-watching necessity of sports has given advertisers one final thing to hold on to as the entertainment landscape splinters into Netflix cord-cutters and on-demand program viewing, it still isn’t the same.

Nobody really watches commercials even if they do see them. We’re on our phones and the Twitters and any number of other distractions to kill the two-minute breaks in the broadcasts.

Before? We used to just have to stare at the ads. Often we enjoyed it. And companies made a ton of hay off this, establishing their brands with incredible proficiency and crafting the culture around the sport. Nike and Gatorade created our experience watching the NBA more than most players in league history ever could.

It was both spooky and awesome at the same time.

Garnett was a commercial star. So were Kobe and Timmy in their own way. And much of what we came to believe about these players was based on the ads in which they appeared.

That still happens to some degree. But not like it did.

That isn’t better or worse — it’s just different.

So it is with much nostalgia and consideration of Just-For-Menning my beard that I offer the following collection featuring some of the most iconic, fun, and underrated commercials from Kobe, Timmy, and KG.

More than we realize, these and other ads are what shaped how we view these legends.

Kobe Amazing Dunks

This was done so long ago that (1) Kobe was with adidas making mostly terrible shoes, and (2) they used exaggerated CGI to show the absurdity in a human doing dunks that Zach LaVine can do in loafers.

Tastefully Done

(1) KG is so old that he was doing commercials to preview the “all new” premiere of ESPN, The Magazine, and (2) this occurred in a world where he was the second-coolest dude on his own team behind Stephon Marbury, who is now winning rings in China with the shoe logo of an unknown company tattooed on his head.

One on One

Here is the better Kobe adidas ad. And a public service announcement that nobody should ever show any mercy to children on a basketball court. You wanna get buckets on me? Grow. You punk.

Timmy’s Delight

This Tim Duncan cartoon ad from Nike was one of a series that included Kevin Garnett and, I believe, Jason Williams (the WHIT EBOY one). The English-language version seems lost to time, but the animation and dancing cartoon Groundhog Day is the real point here. This was incredibly off-brand for Timmy yet somehow fits into his lame-dad demeanor.


Sigh. These were never good — and the problem was magnified by the fact that they foretold a seemingly inevitable Kobe/LeBron Finals matchup that never came to pass. Which made them annoying in two ways. Still, they were so ubiquitous for so long that they will always be remembered even, if like most ’80s movies, they were trash then and trash now.

Second Coming

While the Puppets may be more memorable, The Second Coming is the best Kobe/LeBron ad of that era. Plus it’s got Dip Set and Sheed rather than bad voice impressions.

HEB San Antonio

Even more so than in his national ads, Timmy showed his personality, or lack-thereof, in these long-time local San Antonio commercials for H-E-B supermarkets. Along with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, and eventually Kawhi Leonard, the grocer made seemingly dozens of (mostly) clever ads that poked fun at their foreignness and mechanical nature, respectively.

KG and Brandi

Between this ad with Brandi Chastain and Tastefully Done, brands sure were interested in cultivating KG as being a creep.

The Gnomes Can Be Out

Tim Duncan: Hall of Fame dork.

Ankle Insurance

Kobe’s image changed so much throughout his career, and Ankle Insurance came at a time when he was transitioning into his “Vino” persona. The formerly caustic and win-only tyrant was becoming less of an anti-social maniac bent on rings. He would spend his final years as a grumpy and wise straight-talking elder statesman who spent most of his time SMH’ing at the kids today. Stuff like this laid the foundation of that transformation.

Tim Duncan, Week of Greatness

All propaganda that built upon Tim Duncan’s reputation for being an emotionless accountant is excellent. It was always a bit of a lie. For all his robotic play, Timmy was always highly expressive when it came to foul calls and he was well known to be quite the cut-up among his teammates and coaches. The H-E-B ads showed that well. The manicured presentation of him as a robot is even thinner now that we have seen the rise of Kawhi, who is actually the “human being” that we wanted to pretend Duncan was. Regardless, it’s fun times to exaggerate, and this Foot Locker joint did it as well as any.

Kobe’s 81

This is less a good commercial than a necessary reminder that Kobe scored 81 in a game. 81 points. One more than 80. Eight. One.


This is probably a personal view unshared by the masses, but this remains one of my favorite spots. There is very little said. The Paul Bunyan-esque myth-making that no company has ever done as well as Nike is all in the tone and subtleness here. KG talks a little trash and maintains his cocky-guy-in-a-hardhat vibe as he destroys all comers. Then, finally, the feared robotic emblem of fundamental and defensive perfection steps up. They were the biggest, literally, rivals in the Western Conference and barbershop debates centered around who was actually better. This ad played on that era and real-world conversation perfectly. “Check.”

Aston Martin

Kobe’s car jump was presented as something of a found-footage, Blair Witch event aimed at going viral in an era when that term was still used. It isn’t that cool in hindsight but it felt bigger at the time.

Fun Police

Nothing has, nor ever will, beat the Fun Police ads. KG was the undisputed biggest star of a collective that included Jason Kidd, Tim Hardaway, Gary Payton and others. There were several different commercials over time, all showing the yellow-trench-coat-wearing squad root out boringness and stodgy views about how the sport should be played. None were better than Garnett screaming at Cherokee Parks.

The job of the Fun Police is never done.