Today the great Charles Barkley turns 55 years old. And while he had a legendary career on the court and is now crushing it as a broadcaster, he was once a part of something really special that should never be forgotten.
The classic “Superstars” video that anyone who’s a little bit older than they care to admit, remembers quite fondly from their youth.
If you’re a bit younger and never used a VCR, you’ve probably never heard of this video. And for that, I’m jealous. Because you’re going to experience these videos for the first time and your life will never be the same.
Most people got this VHS video, which came in a bright yellow box, through a subscription with Sports Illustrated. I think that’s how I got it and I remember all my friends having it.
The video made individual music videos for a number of NBA stars, pairing them with a song that might have fit their playing style (or just something totally unexpected) and then editing together pieces of absolute art. The voiceover at the beginning of the video described boldly as, “A fusion of music and sports like never before.”
My friends and I would power watch it all the time and argue which player had the best song and which video was the coolest of the group.
Did these stand up over time? It’s debatable. But let’s take a look at each one and break ’em down.
1. Charles Barkley
We start with Sir Charles. This video is so old that it only has highlights from his days with the Sixers. But they do show how much of a beast he was in those days. A skinny beast who was not to be messed with. The song choice was Patty Smyth’s “The Warrior” and while it goes great with Barkley’s style of play, I think the real reason why they picked it was because his double fist pump at the :47 mark is perfect for the lyric “bang, bang.” Enjoy:
2. Larry Bird
Next up is Larry Legend. And it’s a great one. The video starts with Bird telling fans at his first championship parade in 1981: “There’s only one place I’d rather be, French Lick.” Then John Cougar Mellencamp’s classic “Small Town” immediately starts playing and, well, cue the goosebumps.
3. Michael Jordan
This video was all young Jordan. Really young Jordan. Before the championships and the brief baseball career and the more championships. I totally forgot the song they picked until I hit play today and, well, this might be the most romantic of all the Superstars videos. Go ahead and light a candle, turn down the lights, and watch Jordan in all of his greatness accompanied by the sweet sounds of Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.”
4. Magic Johnson
This one was my favorite as a kid. I loved Magic Johnson, had like 10 Magic t-shirts and tried to be like him whenever I was running the point for my youth team. I probably watched this video a million times. Some incredible edits in this one, some incredible passes, and just an awesome reminder of how good Magic Johnson was as a player. Oh, and the song, Janet Jackson’s “Control” is a perfect sound for the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s.
5. Dr. J
Well this is easily the most sentimental one of the bunch. Wow. It starts with photos of Dr. J as a kid, then shows his kids tearing it up in the driveway, and then his kids showing him moves to do in a dunk contest… while Whitney Houston sings “I believe that children are the future…” Totally didn’t see that song choice coming. It’s a stretch, sure, but that’s what made this whole Superstars video a classic. You never knew what to expect. Enjoy the heck out of this one.
6. Dominique Wilkins
This might be the most artistic ones of the bunch. We start with the song – Yanni’s “Looking Glass.” Yup, you read that correctly. Not one lyric in the song, all instrumental, all Yanni. It starts with a very dramatic, slow build that shows “The Human Highlight Reel” driving to the stadium, lacing his shoes in the locker room, and being introduced to the home crowd before a big game with the Pistons. Then finally at 1:40 in (1:40!) you see him do something on the court. The courage of the guy who edited this thing! Sit back and embrace the slow build. And the old Omni.
7. Isiah Thomas
I totally forgot about the electric start to this one and wasn’t really ready for the loud scream at the beginning, either. But man, what a start to this thing. NBA fans in the 80’s pumping their fists and dancing in the crowd. There’s even a great “Bam!” screen in the middle of it. The best part for me is hearing Hubie Brown doing a Pistons game and saying “There’s 3 seconds left, plenty of time to get a good shot.” Then Thomas pulls up from half court and drains it. Also, the editing on the high five with Kevin McHale deserves an Oscar. The song? “The Right Stuff” performed by Vanessa Williams. Holy 80s.
8. Hakeem Olajuwon
Or should we say, Akeem Olajuwon because this is from before the Rockets’ legend changed his first name. It starts with a shot of his house, his incredible pool (there’s an outline of a basketball court painted on the bottom of it, which as a kid I thought was the coolest thing ever), and a classic boom box above his locker to get him pumped for games. Totally forgot Olajuwon was on this video but immediately pumped my fist when I heard Kool Moe Dee’s “How Ya Like Me Now?” kick in.
9. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
I saved the most random song for last. I don’t even have words for this one. Just incredible. The tune? “I’m So Happy” performed by Roger Troutman. Seriously, watch this:
And that’s our stroll down memory lane. Which one was your favorite? C’mon, NBA, do this again.