For all you youngins’ out there, believe it or not, there was a time when NBC ruled the world. Regardless as to whether it was The Tonight Show, Thursday comedy blocks, or Sunday NBA triple headers, it was all “Must See TV”, all the time. Not to be forgotten (for the younger crowd, at least), was TNBC, the weekend morning sitcom lineup that featured teen-centric shows such as Saved By The Bell (technically, just “The New Class”), California Dreams, and, the greatest cross-promotional tool of its day, Hang Time.
Hang Time ran in the fall, while NBC was wrapped up in daytime NFL broadcasts.* So, how do you cultivate a young audience for your upcoming NBA broadcast season? Invite young NBA stars to make cameo appearances — and do it regularly. Here’s the list of in-the-moment stars NBC trotted out on Hang Time during the first three seasons (1995-1997): Alonzo Mourning, Grant Hill, Mitch Richmond, Cedric Ceballos, Muggsy Bogues, Juwan Howard, Glenn Robinson, Damon Stoudamire, Gary Payton, Shareef-Abdur Rahim…and some guy named Kobe Bryant.**
Now, this video is noteworthy for two reasons:
- It shows early signs of the charismatic, self-aware human being that is Kobe Bryant. He seamlessly slips into his role (as much as one could on those campy shows) in doing coach Reggie Theus a solid, bailing out his naive stars who fell for the oldest trick in the sitcom plot device book: the hustle.***
- We can now confirm based on this piece of visual evidence, that Kobe Bryant has, at least once in his life, deferred to someone else for a game winning shot. And it was to a girl, no less!
* NBC’s NFL coverage often pre-empted the Sunday morning airings of my beloved TNBC, which wasn’t cool to 12-year-old me.
** And those were just the players! The rest of the cameos: Hannah Storm and Ahmad Rashad (co-hosts of NBA Inside Stuff and…holy crap! Ahmad Rashad is 63 years old???), Chick Hearn, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Marques Johnson, Lisa Leslie, Mark Walberg (not to be confused with that Mark Wahlberg), Sheryl Swoopes, and the one, the only…Dustin Diamond!
*** My two favorites both involve pool halls. There’s the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air version where Uncle Phil breaks out “Lucille”. Then, there’s the Family Matters version, where Carl Winslow defers to Grandma Winslow for the kill shot (unfortunately, there’s no original video that I could find, so here’s a re-enactment).