Superbowl commercials are the most expensive seconds you can buy on TV. Nowadays, a 30-second sport will cost you at least $4 million — no wonder that companies go all out in getting the most famous people and spare no expense to make the best commercial possible. So when McDonald’s needed to promote the Big Mac, they turned to Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.
You can find their “Nothing but net” commercial on almost every best-of list out there. It featured two of the most famous athletes, rivals, in the fastest growing sport in the country. MJ was already a brand with Nike, and Larry still drew in a lot of attention. If you haven’t seen it yet, here, you go.
The making of is equally entertaining as the commercial itself and is the epitome of who the two players were. Larry showed up in his regular workout clothes, no fuss. MJ, on the other hand, negotiated that he decides what he will wear. Michael was designing his own clothes at the time, and he wanted to promote it. The director tried to get him to wear something, well, not ugly and ridiculous by mocking him. Didn’t work, MJ wouldn’t change his mind.
The first two shots, behind the basket and from the knee were real; all other shots were edited. Larry wasn’t happy about that and wanted to try and make all the shots. Guess that competitiveness never dies. When they were in the stands shooting their “shot,” Larry was trying to figure out if he could make the shot without editing! These types of shots on TV are faked for practical reasons.
The two guys also aren’t really sitting on the rafters. We had to bring in a rig and position it about 10 feet off the ground. I remember Jordan saying, ‘If we fall, I’m going to own McDonald’s.’ So there were five or six production assistants under them, and if they fell, they would fall on those guys.Jim Ferguson
The rumors about MJ’S gambling were already circling the media, so that was taken into consideration (via CNBC):
Every detail was worked out. We actually had to have Larry challenge Michael to the game because we couldn’t have Michael make the challenge because of his gambling situation at the time. Larry originally said, “What if’n I play you for it?” And the director, Joe Pytka, asked Larry what “if’n” was.Jim Ferguson
Remember how this is all very expensive, and every detail is planned out? It nearly never got on air when the lawyers realized they don’t have the rights to use the Hancock building in the commercial. The price to get the rights? A basketball signed by MJ and Larry and a hundred bucks. Whoever was negotiating must’ve been a basketball fan.