NBA Playoff Commercial Power Rankings
There’s plenty of places you can find power rankings for the NBA playoff teams or players, but today we are focused on one of the most important elements of the post-season: The commercials. Which pitchmen and which commercials reign supreme?
1, Boban Marjanovic
The Mavericks’ backup center has played just a minute and fifteen seconds in the playoffs, but he’s the breakout star of the 2022 playoff commercial season. Previously, Boban had done stellar work promoting Goldfish alongside his best friend Tobias Harris.
But this year, Boban is selling insurance in a series of commercials where he’s chastised Jake from State Farm for leaving rings on the coffee table - “Why do we have coaster if nobody’s gonna use them?” - but shown his softer side in an ad where he helps Trae Young and Jonquel Jones shop for hard-to-reach items at Costco.
It’s a bold new direction for State Farm, who have effectively run out of new things for Chris Paul to do in their ads after a 2020-21 ad season where the theme was “Being in State Farm commercials gave Chris Paul PTSD.” They’ve tried to mix in some Trae Young minutes, to set up the transition of power, but they didn’t expect Boban to dominate on the set like he has. How long until we’re seeing his switched-at-birth twin “Robin” Marjanovic? Bobi is easily Number One on these power rankings and in our hearts. And if State Farm isn’t selling Boban coasters, they’re just leaving money on the table.
2. Taco Bell roommates with simmering sexual tension
Fans have endlessly debated to the true nature of the relationship between “roommates” who bring each other Taco Bell birthday breakfast in bed, and even dream about each other.
It’s a highly sensual commercial, with lingering close-ups on one roommate’s lips blowing on a cup of coffee, hot sauce moistening a breakfast burrito, and cinnamon bites dipping tentatively into coffee. Just kiss already! Taco Bell’s “will they or won’t they” energy now extends to another pair of roommates who order White Hot Ranch Nacho Fries every day. It’s a much better direction than last year’s playoff ads, where an interracial teenage couple’s families walked out on their prom photos. Not cool!
3. Charles Barkley
It’s inspiring that Sir Charles is in more commercials than ever, twenty years after he retired from basketball. He’s doing spots for AT&T, Capital One, and even narrating Subway ads, despite his diction being turrible. And they’re still funny! The only one we take issue with is the Fan Duel “Voice In Your Head” spot where SNL’s Chris Redd plays the voice in Chuck’s head. We are all for Chris Redd getting paid, and he deserves a lifetime pension for his work as Hunter the Hungry in Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping. But it could just be a tiny Barkley! Chuck’s already there filming the spot!
4. Ben Stiller
He was born ready.
5. The Guy Who Wants To Order Wingstop After Grocery Shopping
I don’t know why it’s so hard for his wife to understand why he wants WingStop.
6. Steph Curry
Shooters shoot, and pitchmen pitch. That’s why Steph Curry takes a volume approach, both in his playoff offensive attack and his commercial performance. Chef is second in the NBA in points this playoffs, despite being only 20th in minutes played, but he’s way ahead in minutes of commercial time. Curry stays fresh by mixing things up. He’s the butt of the joke in his CarMax ads, playing a version of himself that no one respects, where even used car dealers, generally the lowest rung of society, constantly diss him. In Subway ads, he shares the ball with Simone Biles and Charles Barkley, and is often overwhelmed in the kitchen, just like any time you’ve seen him do a cooking demo with his wife, Ayesha. And he’s even in an ad for Jordan Poole’s next summer blockbuster, where he says only half a word - “Nope.”
But much like a bad shooting game where he’s forcing up bad shots, Curry is working way too hard in his commercial for cryptocurrency exchange FTX. He’s wearing costumes, he’s carving Bored Apes out of ice, and he’s wearing a weird collarless shirt. Steph, you’ve got to let the ad game come to you! Maybe it’s simply the ickiness of hyping cryptocurrency at all - it feels like the Ponzi scheme-esque nature of crypto is exploiting Steph’s gravity to lure in investors. But also, don’t dress up like a mime, Steph! That’s Rudy Gobert territory.
And is it really a coincidence that the Warriors decline against Memphis happened right after the crypto crash? Maybe the Silicon Valley’s favorite team is more worried about bitcoin than closing out of three-point shooters.
7. Dr. Rick from Progressive
In the last two years, Dr. Rick has become a Kyle Lowry type in playoff advertising. Steady, reliable, elevates his teammates, defying his age, and making the right decisions. I really thought they’d fizzle out by now, but at this point I’m expecting at least two more deep playoff runs for both.
8. Klay Thompson
Dorito-flavored hot wings and Mountain Dew at a Buffalo Wild Wings. Is there a more stonerish food combination Klay Thompson could be endorsing short of a weed edible? We are just happy to see Klay outside of Kaiser Permanente commercials, because those just remind everyone of all the quality Klay time we missed, and how if you get a procedure done at Kaiser, you’re probably gonna need a second surgery.
9. Trae Young
He’s the heir apparent to Chris Paul in State Farm commercials. Still only 23 years old, Young is another exciting, undersized point guard who is much nicer in his commercials than he is while getting in opponents’ faces on the court. That’s the only issue with his State Farm performances. Young’s reputation in the league is based on antagonizing fans and hitting cold-blooded shots, like a killer. In the State Farm ads, he’s playing the foil to WNBA players. That being said, he shows real chops in the ad with Boban, and he’s clearly come a long way since his earlier work with Landmark Morrow Dodge Ram.
10. Matthew Stafford
Technically the suite of AT&T commercials are from March Madness, with a confusing in-universe storyline of saleswoman “Lily” actually attending the tournament and needing a replacement, that didn’t make any sense because all the commercials launched at the same time. But the one ad still running (and running, and running…) into NBA season is Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford apologizing to his old team and phone when he upgrades. It’s a cute commercial, but it’s amazing that he’s seen more screen time in this one ad than his entire 12-year career with the Detroit Lions.
11. LeBron James
Keep talking about my army of crabs, our personal shells, the weird outdated reference to my “crab dribble” from 13 years ago, why does any normal person need a Hummer where all four wheels can turn at once, etc etc etc!! Do me one favor PLEASE!!!! And I mean PLEASE!!!! Keep that same narrative ENERGY when this commercial is running through the entire postseason and the Lakers can’t beat out the New Orleans Hornets for tenth place! That’s all I ask. #ThankYou
The Son of God is making a strong showing in his first year of NBA ads. Usually we don’t see so much religious advertising in the playoffs, but perhaps His PR team anticipated all of the publicity Islam would get with Ramadan taking place in April, and thought, What Would Jesus Do? The answer is, buy ads to run before Animal Kingdom trailers. Would I have gone with “Jesus was canceled”? Probably not, but the Lord’s reps move in mysterious ways.
13. Animal Kingdom Guys
In their final season, the Cody boys aren’t as exciting. There’s just no one with the charisma of an Ellen Barkin, or a Denis Leary, or even a Scott Speedman. The commercials don’t have salacious shots of pool parties, or motorcycle hijinks, and they’re also lacking a catchphrase - who could forget Barkin’s snarled “Keep me in the loop!” Look, it’s a six-year tradition that NBA fans are bombarded by Animal Kingdom ads without any idea of what the show is about - Surf crime? Exotic animal smuggling? Buying a zoo? But it’s going out with less excitement than ever, and more shots of Shawn Hatosy than ever as well.
14. Meta Quest Virtual Reality Workout Lady
This NBA playoff season’s commercials are intent, more than anything, on letting you know that virtual reality headsets are not for nerds. Our heroine can’t believe someone named “Susie” thinks a video game helmet that covers your eyes could be for gaming nerds and not “the best workout of your life.” Then she proceeds start swinging baseball bats at CGI objects - like a gamer nerd’s erotic fantasy of what exercise is.
It feels like they should just lean in to how nerdy it is. Instead, they set up weird rhetorical questions: You think this is for nerds? Well what if you pretended to be on a SPACE STATION for a year? You think THAT’S for nerds? OK what if you could put on this helmet and DO YOUR MATH HOMEWORK? You think THAT’S for nerds? Do you, Susie???
Yes it is. VR helmets are incredibly dorky and nerds are their customers. Embrace it!
15. Narrators who interact with the people in the commercials
Please stop doing this.
16. Damian Lillard
Lillard has feuded with Paul George in the past, but now he’s become what he once hated: The guy whose Gatorade commercials run all playoffs long even though he hasn’t played in months. Who could forget Playoff P’s legendary “Ballgame” ad where he hit a buzzer-beater, then got swept out of the playoffs in real life after bricking a buzzer-beater? At least Lillard is just boxing, not doing something impossible like beating the Golden State Warriors in a single playoff game.
17. Axe Body Wash Nerds
This isn’t a new ad campaign, but being a year old hasn’t stopped it from being omnipresent once again during the playoffs. I shudder when I hear the opening notes of “Irresistible” every time the ad comes on, an Australian rapper asks me “How you doin’ baby?” and some nerds score with a love potion. Look, it’s annoying, but as someone who lived through the Axe Body Spray era, it’s terrifying to think anyone associates Axe products with smelling good.
18. Karl-Anthony Towns
KAT was up and down in the playoffs this year, scoring eight points one game and 33 the next, while the Minnesota Timberwolves both made an impressive showing and blew multiple big leads. The jury is still out on his superstar case, but what does Madison Avenue think of him? They think his best role is getting trounced by a gamer.
A short white guy named Gold Glove takes KAT to school, and it’s honestly more embarrassing than anything Ja Morant tweeted about him during the first round. It’s not that this means Towns is never going to be a superstar, but it does mean he needs people in his life giving him better advice. Anthony Edwards would never agree to this ad!
19. The Antonelli’s
I know people who actually patronized this cheese shop in Austin and cannot stand the Antonelli’s now thanks to this commercial. Is it the repetition? The cheese pun? The way they say “and we’re the Antonelli’s” in unison? The idea that in America, employees don’t receive health care through basic government programs and instead through Capital One cash back rewards? It’s hard to pinpoint one reason but this ad is loathsome and I’ve become lactose-intolerant simply by watching it.
Medusa is a straight-up MURDERER, and we are supposed to sympathize with because she bought sunglasses on Amazon. We assume if Amazon had their way, Medusa would lower her sunglasses and turn any Amazon union organizers to stone as well. The commercial makes it seem like her casual murder delights her friends, but let’s see how they like it when no one can get a break because a rich Gorgon killed the bartender. That’s the Amazon way - just murder a service worker if he looks at you funny. And showing that Jeff Bezos also has no sympathy for women either, the narrator assures us he was “asking for it.”
We’ll see if the new wave of commercials that emerge during the Finals have the toughness to challenge Boban, but right now, he’s put the crown on a very high shelf, even higher than the pickles and the mustard.