When the NBA needed something to spice up its All-Star Saturday night — as the Slam Dunk Contest (since 1984) and the three-point contest (since 1986) got stale — they unveiled the Skills Challenge in 2003.
What they should have done was unveiled the game of H-O-R-S-E. The league will realize this when the game is played by Kevin Durant, Joe Johnson and O.J. Mayo on TNT's lead-up to Saturday night's festivities. The idea was dreamed up by the network to create some action around "Inside the NBA," which will be set up outside US Airways Arena and will broadcast live with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Chris Webber from 5 to 7 p.m. ET on Saturday night.
It's easy to see why this is going to be popular. As someone who has seen pros play a game of horse, or something close to it, it's really exciting. They'll play on a 45-by-50 foot court, where something called the NBA All-Star Block Party is being held. They'll wear microphones so you can hear them call every shot and there is, of course, no dunking allowed.
"Everyone played H-O-R-S-E as a kid," said Jon Diament, executive vice president of ad sales and marketing for Turner. "Who has played slam dunk?"
Except, and you might have heard this, the guys aren't playing H-O-R-S-E. They are actually playing G-E-I-C-O, thanks to the insurance company paying a premium for the name change. They'll also get scoreboard signage and on-air graphics and probably get an incredible bang for the buck.
The only thing we can think of that we thought Geico should have done was to pay a former NBA player to wear a caveman outfit and try to beat the current guys. Not only would you get people to laugh while working in one of your brand mascots, but if the caveman actually won it would generate actual news stories. The last time that was done successfully was when Nokia had a dressed up rabbit win a road race it sponsored. Diament said there will be no geckos or cavemen on the court this time around.
The competition is set to start at 6 p.m. ET and we figure there's enough of a pad so that if it gets ridiculous, they'll be done by the time they have to be off the air by 7 p.m. But to us, this is the most exciting part of the weekend, including the game.
It's why we're saying it here right now that next year's Saturday night ticket will get you a seat into the arena to see H-O-R-S-E, or G-E-I-C-O, or whatever it's called then.
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