Kyrie Irving Is Back as Uncle Drew. But Is the Gag, Like the Character, Getting Old?

Third spot in Pepsi MAX series

Pepsi MAX's geriatric baller is back … again.

The sugar-water company on Monday launched "Uncle Drew: Chapter 3," the third installment in a popular series in which NBA star Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, made up Hollywood-style to look like he's well into his golden years, drops in on a local street court to school younger ballers.

The first episode was the second most-watched ad on YouTube last year, and has racked up more that 27 million views on the platform since May 2012. The second, which added Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves to the mix as an old teammate of Drew's, and included a cameo from retired Celtics star Bill Russell as an elder statesman, has drawn 9 million since last October. The new episode, which works in Nate Robinson of the Denver Nuggets and Maya Moore of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, is already over 2 million views.

The fact is, at this point, the element of surprise is mostly gone. Despite slight twists, it's the same joke over and over, with the highly staged play on the live spectators' expectations less and less subtle in its winking at online viewers. That leaves the glossy camp and the reflexive joy of watching creaky characters play exceptionally well, which are amusing enough in their own right, and close enough in spirit to the brand's positioning as a diet soda in disguise to make for some fun branded entertainment—even if the gag is getting old.