Michael Jordan once officiated a game between Jason Kidd, Charles Barkley, Michael Finley, Damon Stoudemire, and three sumo wrestlers during Nike's promotional campaign in Asia.
NBA players vs. Sumo Wrestlers
The game took place in the summer of 1996, right after MJ led the Bulls to their fourth NBA title in six years -- two of those Michael spent playing baseball. As a part of one of Nike's first overseas tours, the brands' biggest endorsers at the time were matched up against sumo wrestlers. The biggest of them all served as the ref.
An AdAge article from 1996 offered more details on a game of 3-on-3 that took place in front of a sold-out crowd, opening the door for the company to enter the Asian market in the upcoming years.
Events are being created with key Nike athletes in mind. A template for what Nike has in mind was established with 'Hoop Heroes,' an event in Tokyo earlier this month. Held on two consecutive nights, each event was a slickly produced, 2-hour show headlined by Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and other Nike basketball endorsers. High on entertainment values like music and lighting, and heavy on athlete-spectator interaction, the show even had some NBA stars challenging a group of Japan’s best sumo wrestlers to a game of basketball. Tokyo Broadcasting System televised the events; Nike is now shopping for an international distributor. Nike also set up a retail space for its athletic footwear and apparel, and reported brisk sales and hefty profits.
The game itself lacked any form of excitement. Besides marveling that NBA stars and sumo wrestlers are on the court together, fans got no real entertainment value from watching the game. Michael Finley's two-handed alley-oop slam, as generic as it can possibly get, ended up being the highlight of the night. Other than that, it was nothing more than a walk-fest intertwined with an occasional jump shot.
But let's face it -- NBA superstars have done even more embarrassing things for promotional purposes. Like Wilt Chamberlain's laxative commercial. Everything else looks great in comparison.