Monday, May 7, 2007

The Greatest Highlight Video of All-time

Nique, Yanni.... say no more

I was born before the days where parenting consisted of popping in the latest video from "The Wiggles", "Baby Einstein" or "Hannah Montana" (which is unfortunate for reasons I'll decline to go into) and letting the melodic fog of musical learning take hold for an hour and a half only to have the child request that it be played over and over and over again (not that I have children of my own, but I do watch sitcoms, so I know what I'm talking about, dude). My formative years were instead sculpted by TV shows. Shows like SportsCenter, TBS movies like Road House, Overdrive, Over The Top, Bloodsport and Adventures In Babysitting, and whatever sport they were showing on ESPN2 at 8am on a Sunday (usually tarpon fishing on the Walker Cay Chronicles or Warren Miller's skiing vids) were pretty much my only source of media-related entertainment. Despite my relationship with crappy programming on the boob tube, there was one video during my upbringing that was able to grab my attention away from Dalton, Jeff Healy and the tribulations of the Road House crew in a way no other program or movie ever has. The video was NBA Superstars Vol. 1, and not only is it the greatest collection of highlight reels ever, but it contains the single greatest highlight reel ever created.

The video was ("is", I'm just detailing from the perspective of the 12 year-old who sat in front of his tube and watched it) basically a series of 4 minute tributes to the best players of the day put to the music that best captured both their personalities and playing styles. The featured players in this video were Magic Johnson (to Janet Jackson's "Control"), Larry Bird (to the Cougar's "Small Town"), Jordan (to Top Gun's "Take My Breath Away"), Charles Barkley (to Pat Benatar's "The Warrior) along with some other riff raff including an unbelievable general NBA highlight reel to "Teddy's Jam" by Guy (a song and group so hilarious on so many levels I may devote a separate post or novel to it). I watched the video so many times I can't hear those songs without thinking of the exact shot, dunk or pass that corresponds with the video tribute. Even though the video was produced in 1989, the production quality transcends time and is easily the best produced video highlight reel I've ever seen. Each shot made is on beat and the emotion of the song always reflects the type of play on the screen. It's the perfect blend of music and sport. And while almost every portion of this video is so fantastic it seems almost illogical that one video could stand out, there is one video that stands above the rest: Dominique Wilkins.

People forget just how exciting a player Dominique was. In an era of Bird, Magic and Jordan, NO ONE put together more highlight worthy performances than 'Nique, hence the name the Human Highlight Reel. He truly personified that nickname on a nightly basis. His highlights from one game were better than what you could get out of the rest of the league over the course of an entire season. So given his highlight acumen, the one question left for the producers of NBA Superstars was: How do we properly honor Dominique and give him the musical accompaniment deserved of such a worthy star? I was not a fly on the wall in that room the day the music decision for Dominique was made, but had I been, I think I would have seen tears of joy streaming down the cheeks of the production crew following the epiphany that there is only one musician on the planet worthy of Dominique: Yanni.

Yanni is a virtuoso. He's a self taught pianist and composer, former competitive swimmer, author and once was in a "rock band" with Charlie Adams and John Tesh (that must have been a rockin good time). His album Yanni: Live From Acropolis is probably one of the best 5 albums ever created. But more relevant to this conversation, the song chosen for Dominique's video, "Looking Glass", perfectly captures the entertainment value that was Dominique Wilkins in the late 80's. The video itself is seamless. The drive to the Omni with 'Nique with Yanni's slow but driving intro teasing you along the way. Nique lacing up his cons in his "Atlanta Air Force" t-shirt while the music slowly builds up to a crescendo via a mysterious sounding keyboard tone and understated yet regal keyboard strings providing a further undercurrent of mystery in the background. Then the mood changes. There's 'Nique sitting on the bench as the music starts to fire up and getting called in for pre-game intros, a shot of the crowd and all of the sudden BAM! two handed flush and Yanni takes over. The keyboard explodes into an amalgam of electronic strings and quasi-piano sound that personified the late 80's progressive music "movement" (think Herbie Hancock, also featured later on the Superstars video) and on every fourth count a hard keyboard drum beat sync'd perfectly to 'Nique soaring over a helpless defender and delivering a Marv Albert "facial!" (take that in any context you wish). If your blood is pumping by the one minute mark of that video, you may want to see a doctor because it is very likely that you are deceased. It is to highlight videos what David is to sculpting, "Las Meninas" is to painting and Catch 22 is to noveling. The epitime of perfection. I won't run down the rest of the video shot for shot, but I do want to point you to a favorite spot of mine at the 2:40 mark when 'Nique steals the ball near the opposite three point line, starts up the court, they cut to a shot of a young and impish looking Mike Fratello shooting up from the bench and finishing with a 'Nique flush slam and back to Fratello for a bizarre and maniacal grin. That scene alone would be elevate an average video into one of the top 5 videos of all-time. Match that up with Yanni and you've got the greatest video of all-time.


Sportscaster Mark Nagi said...

the best part of this video is when Nique is driving around looking for the off ramp to get to the Omni.... at the time this was cutting edge sports tv.... I think the VHS cassette is at my home....

David said...


Without a doubt the greatest video of all time... a FUSION of sports and entertainment like nothing before.

Me and my sister still love to quote Isiah's mom at the end of his segment: I'm so proud of you son... so proud!

Jason Gurney said...

I was not a fly on the wall in that room the day the music decision for Dominique was made, but had I been, I think I would have seen tears of joy streaming down the cheeks of the production crew following the epiphany that there is only one musician on the planet worthy of Dominique: Yanni.

That's the funniest thing I've read in a long time--nice work.



Andy said...

Dude!!! We wre just talking about this on my blog. Hilarious. Check it out...I was talking about Bird being one of my all-time faves and everyone knows what a HUGE Nique fan I am, and anyway this video was mentioned, and someone sent me your link.

Check me out:



jonyangorg said...

amen to it all.
the DVD is available and cheap.

You can see some of it here too:

jonyangorg said...

lemme tinyurl those for you:

Jeff Meredith said...

You said everything I wanted to say about the Dominique video. But there's one dunk which appears to be missing in this video: Dominique releases a shot beyond the foul line, realizes it is off and runs toward the basket, ball clangs off the back iron and he's there to slam it home. It seemed like he came out of nowhere. This may have been during the 88 Eastern semis against the Celtics (Dominique's game 7 performance in that series is legendary). If NBA Superstars came out in 1989, I have no idea why that dunk didn't make the cut.

I'm wondering if there's a place where I could buy that "Atlanta Air Force" t-shirt -- it is awesome.

Btw, I really love the opening too. It takes you through the course of his day -- the drive to the arena, getting ready in the locker room, the introduction of starting lineups, etc. Just goes perfectly with the music.