Just Don't Do It

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Game 1 was over early in the third quarter, a case of Kobe doing too much work, elevating over and twisting around and under Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus.

Over on Versus’ final NHL telecast of the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins were squaring the Stanley Cup Final series at two games apiece in The Igloo against the Detroit Red Wings.

So, it was back to The Finals. But Kobe was on the bench and then cooled considerably upon reentry. His chance to ring up 50 gone, Bryant settled for 40, as the Los Angeles Lakers held the Orlando Magic to just 29% from the field and 75 in a 25-point blowout. And this is the team that made the Cavaliers, if not LeBron, disappear and deprive the world of The King and the Black Mamba.

Still, as an NBA fan, I soldiered on (ABC would be lucky if many of the Nielsens followed my lead) until the end, thinking, hoping, well, at least that Nike just wouldn’t do it.

But the Beavertown behemoth did it in the fourth quarter, airing a 60-second iteration from its presumptuous and annoying MVP campaign. In this one, the incessantly chattering youngster finally stops yammering at the Kobe and LeBron mannequins, when, awestruck, he’s compelled to draw upon his inhalator, after those Most Valuable Puppets introduce him to warehouse filled with Nikes.

For its part, Vitamin Water — which was also engaged in the Kobe-LeBron idolatry with its spots that asked people to choose between the Black Mamba and the would-be King — made a key substitution. It switched its attention and dollars to Superman, running a commercial in Game 1 that can best be described as the many faces of Dwight Howard.

Sports celebrity endorsements obviously work — unless the performance and timing don’t coincide. Think AMEX’s “Have You Seen Andy Roddick’s Mojo” campaign for the 2005 U.S. Open, which saw the American flame out to Gilles Muller in the opening round of the Grand Slam event, leaving the credit card company with rushed follow-up creative and a ton of weight on CBS and USA Network.

Earlier this week, an ad for the ATT Laptop Connect product, featuring A&E host Bill Kurtis and the tennis player, was the first commercial in the ESPN2 pod that immediately followed Roddick’s French Open exit to Gael Monfils.

What if the Lakers call time out after Howard clangs a couple of free throws and the Vitamin Water spot appears on ABC? Not exactly a healthy endorsement for the drink.

Then again, we still have puppets.

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