How Bow Wow Energized a New Generation of NBA Fans with ‘Like Mike’

In January 1999, the NBA faced the onset of an existential crisis. At the end of a six-month labor dispute that reduced the season to just 50 games, Michael Jordan, the most popular star on the market, announced his retirement (for the second time). Over the next few years, the NBA’s average attendance dropped every year, television ratings steadily dropped, and by 2001, only 15% of 18- to 24-year-olds had an interest in the league. Emerging talents like Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett are just beginning to attract loyal fans, and the NBA knows they need to pivot away from the linear entertainment model to appeal to a younger demographic. older age.

Around the same time, Shad “Bow Wow” Moss (later “Lil Bow Wow”) had quickly become the biggest children’s performer — one of the greatest musicians of the period — indeed. the — throughout the country. As hip-hop saturated the mainstream and became the best-selling music genre, the 11-year-old, who was originally discovered by Snoop Dogg in the early 90s, exploded with his first album, ” Beware of Dogs”. sold $2.7 million records and went platinum in 2001. In addition to selling out her first 50-day tour that year, the rap superstar also began to venture into Hollywood, becoming guest-starring in movies and mini-TV shows taking advantage of his unsurpassed personality and charm.

So, in 2002, when the producers of a fantasy movie about children’s basketball called Like Mike approached the league about lending their emerging basketball photos to a basketball fantasy movie starring Moss, it sounded like a scam. The film, about a 13-year-old boy who gains Michael Jordan’s court skills by wearing an all-star magic-enhanced sneakers, promises to be the NBA’s gateway to audiences. pretending to be teenagers. In the film, a soaring orphan boy named Calvin Cambridge (Moss), joins a (newly created) NBA team, the Los Angeles Knights, and sends them into a fray. Now, thanks to all the tournament participation, Calvin’s fictional path to the title will pit him against real, then budding superstars like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson, as well as famous players like Alonzo Mourning and Jason Kidd.

At the very least, it’s a fruitful partnership for both film and professional basketball. Released twenty years ago this week, Like Mike grossed $52 million, and its popularity among young millennials continued to boom throughout the DVD afterlife to huge profits; the movie is now a basic nostalgia for those who grew up watching it over and over again. But its larger legacy is the way it represents the mainstream convergence of basketball and hip-hop cultures, which heralded the NBA’s dramatic rise in youth and signaled an increasingly symbiotic relationship. rising between Hollywood and professional sports. “This definitely gave me a wave of energy that I didn’t think I could get just by being a rapper,” Moss said. “The NBA has turned a new leaf – it’s a perfect marriage.”

When writer Michael Elliott first introduced producer Peter Heller his manuscript to Like MikeHeller knew he had something special. “I said, ‘That’s Red shoes and basketball, it was amazing,” he recalls. “I haven’t had this kind of certainty more than two or three times.” It didn’t take long for Elliott to find his star: He recalled the moment he had witnessed two years earlier on the set of the MTV drama, Carmen: A Hip Hopera, when Moss guest-starred music producer Jermaine Dupri on the field. Moss said: “I was always into sports as a kid watching Michael Jordan. “When I became famous, I was still playing in tournaments through Ohio and Indiana and the midwest.” How Bow Wow Energized a New Generation of NBA Fans with ‘Like Mike’

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