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HomeSportsThirty years ago, Chris Farley's memorable encounter with college basketball

Thirty years ago, Chris Farley’s memorable encounter with college basketball

Christian Laettner isn’t entirely sure if he was expecting it, but 30 years later, he fondly recalls the moment in 1994 when he saw a commercial on ESPN. The ad featured Chris Farley, dressed in Laettner’s No. 32 jersey, recreating his iconic buzzer-beating shot against Kentucky, a moment etched in NCAA Tournament history. Laettner, reflecting on the hilarious and awesome commercial, mentioned that it took him by surprise.

Farley appeared in three ESPN spots promoting college basketball, each filled with his trademark physical comedy and shenanigans. One memorable spot had him as Michigan’s Rumeal Robinson, repeatedly missing free throws in a comical display of frustration. In another, he portrayed North Carolina’s Michael Jordan, opting for a step-back 3-pointer in a nod to the absence of the 3-point line in college basketball at the time.

However, it was the Laettner ad that truly stood out, capturing Farley’s comedic brilliance. In the commercial, Farley hilariously reenacts the sequence of events leading up to Laettner’s famous shot against Kentucky, culminating in a chaotic yet triumphant finish.

In 1993, Glenn Cole, a copywriter at Wieden+Kennedy, conceived the idea for the ESPN campaign featuring Farley. Despite Farley’s rising stardom, Cole believed the comedian was the perfect fit for the project due to his comedic flair and genuine love for sports. Farley’s physical comedy skills and enthusiasm on set left a lasting impression on Cole and the rest of the production team.

The shoot for the commercials took place in Los Angeles, with Farley fully embracing the whimsical nature of the scripts. Farley’s infectious energy and genuine interest in the project made the experience not just creatively rewarding but also memorable on a personal level for the team.

Years later, Laettner bumped into Farley at an airport, leading to a heartwarming reunion where they shared a laugh over the memorable commercial. Despite Farley’s untimely passing in 1997, his legacy lives on through his iconic performances, including the unforgettable college basketball commercials he starred in.

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