The National Basketball Association has links to hip hop music and has also had its own famous anthem in Roundball Rock. In recent years, the league has embraced country music and musicians and bands that could be considered tame by some observers (such as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Rob Thomas and Justin Timberlake).
Before the league introduced its current promotional phrase Big Things Will Happen, the league's former promotional phrases were America's Game/NBA Action: It's Fantastic (1980s–1992), I Love This Game (1992–2007) and Where Amazing Happens (2007–2011).
For several years, the NBA embraced "hip-hop culture". Rappers Nelly and Jay-Z have ownership stakes in NBA teams (the Charlotte Hornets and Brooklyn Nets respectively), and many artists have worn NBA throwback jerseys in music videos. In turn, the NBA plays rap and hip-hop in arenas during games, and ABC/ESPN used the music during game coverage. Some NBA players have tried rap or hip-hop themselves (Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, Allen Iverson (under the rap name "Jewelz"), and notoriously, Metta World Peace are some examples. In 1994, Epic Records released an album entitled B-Ball's Best Kept Secret, which featured hip hop songs performed by several NBA players, including Jason Kidd, Dana Barros and Isaiah Rider.
The connection has often been noted from the large African American constituency of players, which also dominate the hip hop industry. Another source of comparison is the inner city's traditional appeal to basketball, which also helped foster hip hop and its culture in its early beginnings.
Unlike later NBA broadcast partners, CBS used lyrics in their theme music from 1973–76. They were also used for most of the 1978–79 season. The lyrics, sung in an upbeat fashion by an ensemble of singers, were paired with visuals using rotoscoped basketball players in silhouette, against a black background and outlined in different colors. The lyrics for the full version (there were also shorter versions of the theme and lyrics presented below) are below:
Give it all you've got,
Take your very best shot
And may the best team win.
The time is now, the name of the game is action.
They're on the floor,
And they're ready to score,
So let the game begin,
And let's see how the ball's going to bounce today
Welcome to N-B-A.
Come on, and join the roar of the crowd
Here's another classic about,
To come your way...
You'll see the best in basketball
When you watch the N-B-A,
When you watch the N-B-A on C-B-S.
(N-B-A on C-B-S, N-B-A on C-B-S, ... etc. fading out)
Starting in 1977, CBS used an alternate opening showing a montage of still pictures of current NBA star athletes with music (similar to the music used by the network for its CBS' NFL coverage at that time) accompanying it. During the 1977–78 season CBS used highlights and various shots of the arena where the game would take place to the music of Van McCoy's "Two Points". In 1980, CBS used rotoscoped animation in silhouette of one player shooting a jumpshot and the ball in mid air rolling all the NBA teams as it spun in the air, with the music of Francis Monkman's "G-Force" behind it. During the 1978–79 season, the music for the highlights was "Chase", the theme by Giorgio Moroder for the movie Midnight Express. The opening guitar and horn riff of the Chicago hit "Alive Again" were used for the highlights prior to the opening animation during the 1979–80 and 1980–81 seasons.
By the 1983 NBA Finals, the opening sequence was set in a primitive computer-generated montage of basketball action inside a virtual arena that looked similar to the Boston Garden. This opening sequence (which was usually intertwined by a montage of live basketball action complete with narration) was created by Bill Feigenbaum, who also created a similar open for The NFL Today used around the same time. This opening melody (mostly consisting of an uptempo series of four notes and three bars each) from 1983–1988 is generally considered to be the most familiar theme music that The NBA on CBS used.
For the 1989 NBA Finals, CBS completely revamped the opening montage. The computer-generated imagery (once again set in and around a virtual arena) was made to look more realistic (live-action footage was incorporated in the backdrops). Also, the familiar theme music was rearranged to sound more intricate and to have a more emotional impact, along the lines of the network's later World Series coverage. Between the 1989 NBA Finals and the 1990 NBA Finals' intros, there is a slight theme tune revision. The 1989 Finals intro had a lot more of a guitar riff to it. Meanwhile, the 1990 Finals intro carried a little more usage of a trumpet sound.
On June 14, 1990, CBS televised its final NBA broadcast to date. It was Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers. As a way of saying farewell and thank you to the viewers after 17 years, CBS used Marvin Gaye's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" from the 1983 NBA All-Star Game as the soundtrack for their closing montage (featuring the greatest moments in the history of The NBA on CBS).
"Roundball Rock" was the theme music NBC used for its game telecasts from 1990 to 2002. The theme became synonymous with NBA basketball, primarily because it was used at the height of the Michael Jordan era (and the height of the NBA's popularity). Written by John Tesh, "Roundball Rock" went through several slight variations (including two different versions used in 2001 for going into commercial breaks, and a separate rendition for NBC's WNBA telecasts) but remained virtually the same for all twelve years of its existence.
The theme was sampled by Nelly in his song "Heart of a Champion" and was used in both an NBA on NBC video game and the movie Like Mike. Both Conan O'Brien and Craig Kilborn paid comedic tributes to the theme when the NBA on NBC ended, and Tesh was asked about the theme by O'Brien when he appeared on his show in late 2004. During that same episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, the theme was played over footage of the recent Pacers–Pistons brawl.
NBC recently brought back the theme for its coverage of basketball during the 2008 Summer Olympics and again for the 2016 Summer Olympics. In December 2018, Fox Sports acquired the rights to the theme for use during college basketball telecasts.
Until the Pacers–Pistons brawl, ABC and ESPN used a heavy amount of hip-hop and heavy metal music during pregame montages. On the January 4, 2003 telecast of a Dallas Mavericks/Philadelphia 76ers game, ABC played the Ludacris song Move Bitch and censored expletives by using the sound of dogs barking. In the wake of the NBA taking steps to fix negative perceptions of its players, little to no rap music is played prior to games on either network.
ABC's current NBA game theme is called Fast Break, by Non-Stop Music. It is the third game theme the network has had, dating back to 2002–03. The theme is now also used on ESPN NBA coverage.
Al and Hubie got the play-by-play, 'cause ABC Sports got the NBA.
The Heat and the Lakers coming through your TV, it's the NBA on ABC
TNT's NBA theme music, composed by Trevor Rabin, has been the same for the past 14 years (since the start of the 2002–03 NBA season), the longest of the league's three broadcast partners. The theme music was slightly modified for the 2010–11 NBA season, but still retained the familiar theme music with additional compositions. In 2006, TNT used the Fort Minor Remember the Name as secondary music for its playoff coverage and continues to do so in certain segments of their 2007 NBA Playoffs coverage. In the late 1990s, TNT used a swing band to sing its theme (with the refrain of "It's the NBA on TNT tonight...") for promotional advertisements. Sister station TBS used Run-DMC to sing and create its theme during the early part of the 2000s.
The 2011 NBA on TNT – NBA Forever commercial included the song "Live Forever" by Drew Holcomb.
The song "Higher" by Mike Dreams featuring Ashley DuBose produced by Cody Daze was used after Warriors / Celtics game on November 16th on TNT.
The NBA has used several artists in league produced promotions. During the 2000s, the league has used Pink's song "Get the Party Started", Christina Aguilera's song "Fighter", the Baha Men's song "Move It Like This" and Paul Simon's song "Father and Daughter" among others.
During the 2007–2008 season, the NBA ran a series of advertisements featuring still images set to the tune of Carly Comando's song "Everyday" with the promotional phrase Where Amazing Happens. Following the popularity of the original 30 second commercial, several others featuring Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul, and NBA Cares were produced. They have retained the Where Amazing Happens ads (along with Everyday) for the 2008–2009 season. The NBA Playoffs tagline, beginning in 2009, was Where Will Amazing Happen This Year?, usually accompanied with either Ludovico Einaudi's song Fly or Kanye West's song Amazing.
In the 2009–10 NBA season, new advertisements were aired, using Auto-tune to feature players and coaches "rapping" to a supplied hip-hop piece. Also during the season, several advertisements aiming towards Hispanic audiences were also produced, promoting its Spanish language website NBA.com/enebea
For the 2010–11 NBA season, the theme was Last Season was Last Season, featuring players looking to move forward from last year's disappointment in a renewed drive towards the NBA championship. In one of the newest commercials, gigantic Adobe Photoshop cutouts of the player's faces were used in substitute to their normal sized faces to provide a bobblehead effect. The bobblehead commercials has achieved popularity and the NBA plans to use another version in the future.
"Roundball Rock" is a theme song composed by John Tesh and used for The NBA on NBC from 1990 until 2002. NBC played the song 12,000 times during their run. Tesh came up with the melody while at a hotel and called his answering machine at home to sing a preliminary version of the melody so he would not forget it. A more rock-oriented variant was introduced in 1997 to coincide with the debut of the WNBA. That theme was also used until 2002, and on NBC's WNBA telecasts only.
When ABC took over broadcasting rights for the National Basketball Association (NBA) from NBC, Tesh offered them the rights to also use his song, but they declined and chose to compose their own theme music instead. The theme is still memorable nearly two decades later, especially because of its association with the NBA's ascendance in the 1990s.
The song was revived in three ways in 2008 and 2016, with NBC using the music for commercial bumpers and starting lineup announcements during their coverage of basketball at the 2008 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics that featured NBA players and Tesh releasing a free MP3 version on his website to commemorate the 2008 NBA Finals. This song was sampled by Nelly for his song "Heart of a Champion" from his studio album, Sweat, and compilation album Sweatsuit. "Roundball Rock" was also used in The Boondocks episode "Ballin'".
On April 13, 2013, Saturday Night Live parodied John Tesh pitching the theme song to NBC Sports executives. In this sketch, the song featured comical lyrics sung by John's fictional brother Dave.
A re-recording of the tune is used by Tesh as theme music for his syndicated radio show, as well as for the television series Intelligence for Your Life that Tesh co-hosts with his wife Connie Sellecca.
On September 17, 2017, NBC briefly played the song heading into a commercial break during a Sunday Night Football game, over a replay of a jump shot-themed touchdown celebration by Atlanta Falcons players Devonta Freeman and Andy Levitre.Fox Sports announced in December 2018 that it had acquired the rights to "Roundball Rock", which it will play for select college basketball broadcasts. In addition, it will also play the song during telecasts of the Jr. NBA Global Championship tournament, starting in summer 2019.
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