The greatest Super Bowl commercial featuring pro athletes should, in theory, involve football players, but this Super Bowl XVII ad with MJ and Larry Legend playing a game of horse for a McDonald’s Big Mac and fries takes the cake.
The one and a half-minute spot opens with Jordan, wearing matching T-shirt and shorts combo that will make you yearn for the early '90s, walking into a practice gym with a bag of McDonald’s food. Bird challenges him to a shooting contest for it. Things escalate, and they wind up trying to make a shot from the top of the Hancock Center in Chicago.
The commercial was such a hit that McDonald’s brought it back in several iterations: Jordan repeated it in a shooting contest with Marvin the Martian, a spot that inspired the movie “Space Jam.” During Super Bowl XLIV, current NBA superstars Dwight Howard and LeBron James rehashed the commercial, competing in a dunk contest. It ended with Howard shattering the backboard and Larry Bird walking off with the McDonald’s bag.
There were a lot of stellar ads from years past that didn’t make our list. Honorable mentions included:
- The Budweiser Clydesdales (all of them)
- Joe Namath/Farrah Fawcett Noxcema commercial (1974)
- Xerox monks (1997)
- Tabasco mosquito explosion (1998)
A few words about this year’s Super Bowl ads: 30-second spots during the broadcast on CBS sold for between $3.7 and $3.8 million, meaning the 1:30 MJ/Larry spot would have cost McDonald’s about $11.3 million today. The ads generating some pregame buzz include appearances from Amy Poehler, Psy of “Gangnam Style” fame, and (squeal) a baby Clydesdale.