So far, the NBA's 50th anniversary has provided an all-time all-star team to debate from here until the Phoenix Suns' next victory, an educational documentary ("Dad, I thought Magic Johnson invented the NBA") and, now, a 14-song compact disc titled "NBA At 50--A Musical Celebration."
And what, the bravest inquire, might that include?
Michael Jordan's full-length cover version of "This Old Man"?
The extended dance remix of the old theme music to "Laker Warmup"?
"Macarena 96-97," as performed by The Artist Formerly Known as Bryant "Big Country" Reeves?
The possibilities were truly frightening, but producer Ramon Hervey II opted for higher road, eschewing "Jock Jams" schlockery in favor of real musicians performing real music with only the most marginal hoop connections. Were it not for five interspersed snippets of memorable play-by-play commentary, "NBA At 50" could pass for a standard-issue R&B; tribute album, with contemporary artists covering the hits of yesteryear.
(About those snippets: Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game is featured here, but the most famous call of them all, Johnny Most's hysterical "Havlicek stole the ball!" from the 1965 playoffs is not. No Chick Hearn, either. But, sandwiched between Bobby Womack's "Let The Good Times Roll"--featuring Wayman Tisdale on bass--and Take 6's "This Magic Moment," you do get 19 seconds of Brent Musberger at the 1976 NBA finals.)
The album opens with the roar of the crowd and the sound of a dribbling basketball, which quickly melts into the electronic drum beat that accompanied Marvin Gaye's legendary rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. From there, music and basketball intertwine only sparingly--Naughty By Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray" was a staple in NBA arenas a few years back and Kurtis Blow's "Basketball," a mid-80s rap history of the game, is now known to a new generation of TV viewers as "'Li'l Penny's Theme."
Nothing by Shaquille O'Neal, though. Who'd have thought: For its 50th anniversary, the NBA put Shaq on its all-time all-star team, but not on its record album.