DA DA DA DA DA DAAA DA DA - Roundball Rock, The Theme of the NBA in the 1990s
April 9, 2012 5:34 AM   Subscribe

One song was synonymous with NBA Basketball throughout the 1990s: Roundball Rock by John Tesh

In 1988, John Tesh, then known as Yanni's Keyboardist and the co-host of Entertainment Tonight, was covering Le Tour De France. While in his Parisian hotel room, Tesh spontaneously conceived of the melody of a possible NBA theme song and recorded his first draft on his answering machine [yt].

Beginning in 1989, NBC used Roundball Rock in its 11,000+ broadcasts of NBA basketball (dubbed NBA on NBC) often following a 30-120 second recap of recent storylines (narration provided by a stoic Bob Costas or Marv Albert) including:
('92 Finals - Bulls v. Blazers), ('97 - Bulls v. Hawks), ('93 - Lakers v. Suns),( 2000 - Blazers v. Lakers), ('94 - Supersonics v. Nuggets), promotional trailers ('96), and this April 19, 1997 intro featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander.

In 2002, after 13 seasons, NBC's contract with the NBA expired, and ABC/ESPN won the exclusive contract until 2016. ABC/ESPN declined to use to Roundball Rock in their broadcast.

Although its loss was lamented lamented by fans (including Conan O'Brien and at least one mefite (a fan's recreation of this scene[YT]), , Roundball Rock remains a part of American pop culture.

It has been sampled by Ras Kass [yt] and Nelly , and covered by Deadspin, a Boston Jam Band. It is also the theme song for John Tesh's nationally syndicated radio show and one of Bill Simmons' columns.

In 2008, Tesh released a free mp3 to commemorate the NBA Finals and it was briefly reintroduced for the 2008 olympics.

In 2009, Tesh remixed the song (with a limited edition, autographed, commemorated poster, natch).

In May of that year, he also held a 'Rap Dribble Dance Video Contest' offering fans prizes to create their own version of with dancing, rapping, and dribbling. Harley Morenstein, of the later EpicMealTime, was awarded first place.

obligatory bonus: Opening montage of Lil' Penny, Miniature doll of Penny Hardaway,and 1996 Eastern Conf. finals, featuring Mama Said Knock You Out! and Roundball Rock.
posted by fizzix (22 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You have to give Tesh his props. He played a Klingon once on TNG which is pretty cool.
posted by jquinby at 6:07 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Great post.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:26 AM on April 9, 2012

Roundball Rock is still the only NBA theme song as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:29 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband and I still "sing" this before/during every NBA game. It just SOUNDS like basketball! And now it will be in my head allllll daaaaay.

(This is a great post, by the way.)
posted by sc114 at 6:37 AM on April 9, 2012

"Roundball Rock" brilliantly captures the cultural zeitgeist of the last of the peak years of American prosperity before the Unites States' slow, agonizing, inexorable decline as a Chinese debtor state.

One can't help feel but hopeful during the crescendo/decrescendo; an aural embodiment of Michael Jordan's sheer majesty, a dead to rights representation of the American Id, or "We will succeed no matter what the cost"
posted by Renoroc at 6:42 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow. Every time I see live footage of a John Tesh performance I'm reminded that he actually exists. I mean -- wtf?

That said, the Jordan era was amazing. I'm not a big basketball fan, but everybody I know used to gather for Bulls playoff games.
posted by bardic at 6:59 AM on April 9, 2012

John Tesh's fistpumping during his concerts always amuses me so much as he segues into his lite-jazz-rock-whateverthefuckitis. He's genuinely going "YEAH!" as he dinkles across the piano. It's just so incongruous.
posted by mightygodking at 7:42 AM on April 9, 2012

As a kid, I always thought John Tesh's Tour de France themes were super cool.

I also thought Mannheim Steamroller was super cool, and listened to Fresh Aire I-VI a LOT.

These phenomena strike me as not-unrelated.
posted by pts at 8:21 AM on April 9, 2012

Video-game filler music. I recognize it of course, but I wouldn't have been able to sing/hum it. It's inane and instantly forgettable--like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDjt9DRPhCI">Mennen, ESPN, etc.--duh duh da da duh da duh da.

It's a jingle.

Also, where is the requisite flute solo?

CBS NCAA Basketball Champions 1985 Intro

Now there's a jazzy intro.

I'm sure just as many people associate this song with the Final Four now. Ugh.

This is a fantastically sourced post, but god I hated Michael Jordan and likewise hated the NBA in the '90s, so I'm clicking none of it.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:02 AM on April 9, 2012

In contrast to mrgrimm (eponysterical and all that, too), I don't have to click the link at all to call the song to mind. I became quite obsessed with the NBA from about 1991 to 1996 or so. I looked in the newspaper for the boxscores every day. I lived about 2.5 hours from the Indiana Pacers, but in Kentucky, which is all-college-basketball all the time. Somehow I loved (and still love) the NBA.

I sometimes spontaneously "sing" the song even without specifically thinking of the NBA. I should play it for my students at the start of class, come to think of it.
posted by Slothrop at 10:00 AM on April 9, 2012

This made me happy. Thanks.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2012

Just to emphasize one of the links in the FPP, Conan did a sketch so funny that someone was inspired to recreate it when they couldn't track down the original.

Sort of like the Rolling Stones with the Blues.
posted by whuppy at 11:17 AM on April 9, 2012

What's crazy is that I didn't even know I knew what that song was, but just reading about it I could HEAR the damned thing. Watched one of the links to be sure.
posted by papercake at 11:29 AM on April 9, 2012

I f'n love John Tesh.

I always thought this song sounded like a Teshified version of "Move on Up" by Curtis Mayfield. But hearing it again, now, I think I was wrong about that.
posted by cell divide at 11:42 AM on April 9, 2012

god I hated Michael Jordan

posted by cell divide at 11:42 AM on April 9, 2012

I never noticed this music before. I will utterly forget it in about 20 seconds.
posted by Doohickie at 2:01 PM on April 9, 2012

I'm pretty sure this was the NBA theme song during the 90's.
posted by Manjusri at 2:25 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure this was the NBA theme song during the 90's.


god I hated Michael Jordan


One of the biggest assholes in sports, imo. Sure, he was good. So what?

Regardless of what he did to his wife and kids, he was the kind of guy who would sucker punch or hard foul you in practice if you pissed him off.

I hate those fucking guys. I don't care how good you are.

And then there was his HOF speech, which was pretty bizarre but also pretty assholish.

And this Straight Dope thread hints that he was cheap with strippers, another rumor I've heard elsewhere.

His refusal to admit how good his championship teammates were, etc.

All of his juvenile, selfish behavior was tolerated, even lauded sometimes, because he could win basketball games.

I find it pretty funny that LeBron James is castigated as this evil NBA asshole, when Michael Jordan fit that role perfectly. ... Count the rings, baby!
posted by mrgrimm at 2:32 PM on April 9, 2012

NBC were good at packaging the sport. Court Surfing covers more games and with the NBA effectively spread over a bunch of channels, I have access to more games than ever. That said, nobody broadcasts as well these days. In 1996/97, it was gripping to watch the start of the third with Chicago down by five.
posted by One Hand Slowclapping at 2:40 PM on April 9, 2012

Well I mean it's no Pro Stars theme.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:20 PM on April 9, 2012

Sorry, but I have to give a shout out to this classic slammin' b-ball jam.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:17 PM on April 9, 2012

I always thought it was space jam.
posted by huckleberryhart at 11:19 PM on April 9, 2012

« Older +++INHALE - CALM!!!+++ +++EXHALE - RELAX!!!+++   |   The best you can do is learn to survive. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments