We Reminisce: Nike's Lil' Penny and the Fun Police Commercials

Recently, Grantland published an entertaining list of NBA players in commercials, which is well worth a read. However, the so-called "YouTube Hall of Fame" post had two glaring omissions that I spotted right away.

Somehow, some way, every writer who contributed to the article failed to include two of the greatest commercial series of my lifetime: Lil Penny and the Fun Police.

For those of you who don't know -- does anyone really not know? -- Lil Penny was the alter ego puppet of Anfernee Hardaway, voiced by the great Chris Rock. This running series of Nike spots was not only hilarious but wildly popular. Penny was at the height of his powers, before injuries and misfortune cut his greatness short, and Chris Rock was an up-and-coming comedian on the verge of superstardom. The combination was nothing short of television gold.

Nike's Lil' Penny commercials

  • Lil Penny at the Park - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK88MQWsYj8
  • Lil Penny friends with KG - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URNwiRPQf1A
  • Lil Penny has a house party - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILWy5t9xttU
  • Lil Penny and Gheorghe Mureşan (ESPN) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAbleApbgrc

As we know, Nike has been a major player in promoting the NBA and becoming the most popular sneaker brand, thanks to Michael Jordan. And the Swoosh has never been shy to push the creativity envelope and make remarkable commercials. Lil Penny was another in a long line, but my personal favorite was the ongoing Fun Police spots.

The Fun Police were a crew of Nike NBA pros who traveled around looking for people trying to take the fun out of basketball. They did everything from chase a referee through the woods for calling ticky-tack fouls to interrogating a kid who refused to pass. Led by an all-star roster that included Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway, Terry Porter, Moses Malone, Alonzo Mourning, Damon Stoudamire and even Tom Gugliotta, they were a rarity in television: must-watch commercials.

Nike's Fun Police commercials

  • KG and The Raptor - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mrxf_ZHJW_A
  • KG, Zo and Hardaway as Ushers - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsK6kKBuQg4
  • KG & Guggs interrogate Cherokee Parks - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncCK0B6ozxM
  • Kidd, GP and Stoudamire doing laundry - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbiWmAkCUEE

Forget these spots just being the best commercials featuring NBA players -- in my opinion, the only commercial of any kind better than the Fun Police and Lil Penny is Burger King's Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch featuring Hootie, but that's just me. What we can all agree on though is that these two ongoing Nike spots were classic. I'll certainly never get tired of watching them.

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