Chris Rock Narrates Star-Studded NBA Playoffs Spot from Translation

By T.L. Stanley 

Even after an often-grueling regular season, do the superstars of the NBA turn up the heat during the playoffs? It’s a perennial question with no definitive answer, despite rampant numbers crunching, data parsing and armchair analyzing.

A new campaign narrated by comedian Chris Rock picks up the argument, intertwining quick cuts of the NBA’s athletes in their finest on-court moments with the players self-deprecatingly denying the existence of “playoff mode.”

“It’s not a thing,” they say repeatedly.


As is the NBA way, the ads are jam packed with boldface names, including Nikola Jokić of the Denver Nuggets, Jayson Tatum from the Boston Celtics, Jalen Brunson of the New York Knicks, Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves), Damian Lillard (Milwaukee Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers) and a trio of Oklahoma City Thunder players, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams.

None of the pros will cop to trying harder during the playoffs, even as Rock’s voice over contends that the competition is fiercer, the performances are splashier, the crowds are louder and Charles Barkley’s jokes are funnier. (Shaquille O’Neal begs to differ with the latter assessment: “No, they are not,” he says in mock seriousness).

“Playoff mode, it’s a thing” comes from longtime creative partner Translation and director Felix Brady. The video series, in another NBA trademark, also features prominent guests such as Shaq, ESPN’s Malika Andrews, rapper Lil Wayne, celebrity chef Guy Fieri and his sons and Latin musical artist Anuel AA.

The campaign “plays on the idea that the playoffs unlock an elevated version of all of us, from passionate fans to the unrivaled competitors across the league,” Tammy Henault, the NBA’s CMO, said in a statement.

The new work launches concurrently with the NBA’s first signature sonic brand identity, which mashes up snippets of balls bouncing on courts, sneakers squeaking on hardwood, roaring crowds and swishing nets.

The sound, which has its own synchronized, animated NBA logo, will roll out via digital content and NBA Originals programming, such as the docuseries Chasing History.

The ads will air across NBA’s social platforms and the NBA app, as well as cable channel TNT. Print, digital, audio and out of home ads in major American markets will bolster the campaign.

“Playoff mode, it’s a thing” is part of the NBA’s post-season marketing strategy that will drop separate campaigns for the Play-In Tournament and the Finals.