As a WNBA and FIBA World Cup champ, LAs Vegas Aces star Kelsey Plum borrowed Russell Wilson’s infamous catchphrase, proving it works for everyone but him.
When the greenscreen takes of Russell Wilson’s “Let’s Ride” rolled out, it epitomized the calculated branding and suffocating corniness of Wilson’s rebrand as a Denver Bronco.
Wilson isn’t even the first franchise quarterback the Broncos acquired to bolster their team, a fact that was even more pronounced on Thursday night with the game being dubbed the “Peyton Bowl.” Peyton Manning didn’t need an exhaustive rebrand at Mile High because he was Peyton Manning — the game spoke for itself. If Manning had touted “Omaha” t-shirts and self-aggrandized his pre-snap adjustments, his Denver debut may have gone down a little differently.
That’s the path Wilson has chosen, riding “Let’s Ride” into the ground, even in a historically awful prime time loss.
The worst part is, other athletes have now used “Let’s Ride” and actually rode to a championship. Before Team USA won the FIBA World Cup earlier this month, Las Vegas Aces star Kelsey Plum tried out Wilson’s catchphrase, asking America to join her on their championship journey.
The United States defeated China 83-61, and Plum’s Aces teammate, A’ja Wilson, won World Cup MVP in a historic 2022 awards sweep. With Plum’s encouragement, America rode to their fourth straight gold for the women’s FIBA World Cup tournament.
Kelsey Plum teaches Russell Wilson a lesson on branding: “Let’s Ride” only works if you win
In a way, Plum’s “Let’s Ride” was just as optimistic as Wilson’s: Team USA actually went through its own rebrand of sorts this year.
ESPN’s Alexa Philippou pointed out that the 2022 unit has looked different than the medal-winners in years past, as some of the WNBA’s biggest legends were notably absent from this year’s lineup. Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles have officially retired; Diana Taurasi says it’s “on her mind“; Tina Charles said she “served her time” for USA basketball; Brittney Griner is still detained in Russia as the United States seeks pathways to negotiating for her release.
On a team featuring the WNBA’s best, the dominant Aces trio of Plum, Wilson and Chelsea Gray combined for 46 of the United States’ 83 points.
It doesn’t help that Plum and the Aces are from Las Vegas, where several Raiders were spotted courtside during the WNBA Finals. Did Kelsey troll Russ because she’s a part of the Mark Davis Raiders family and couldn’t resist teasing an AFC West rival? Or is “Let’s Ride” actually a hype phrase that can unite a nation on the path to victory?
In Wilson’s hands, it may take a while for the ride to take off. The Broncos are now 2-3, Wilson went an entire game without scoring a touchdown, and for reasons that will never be understood, he didn’t learn how to run the ball at the one-yard line.
It’s too late to back away from “Let’s Ride”, so the only choice Wilson has is to ride out his catchphrase until it actually works. Maybe he could take a page from Plum’s book and apply some of that efficiency to his own game.