Monday, March 4, 2013

12 O'Clock Track: The NBA theme song for the Jordan era, John Tesh's "Roundball Rock"

Posted By on 03.04.13 at 12:00 PM

Two weeks after Michael Jordan's 50th birthday—and two weeks after the onslaught of ESPN specials and commemorations, including a truly excellent profile of the modern-day Jordan by Wright Thompson—it's time we return to talking about an incomparable, dominant body of work produced during the NBA playoffs of the 90s, and maybe not worry so much about dissecting a presently tormented owner of one of the league's worst teams. How to trigger that return? John Tesh, of course.

For an In Rotation years back, Whistler co-owner Billy Helmkamp declared his love for ESPN's Baseball Tonight theme song and the Pavlovian response the opening notes initiate, writing, "I start drooling for 100-mph fastballs, towering home runs, and pickles (of the baseball variety)." Helmkamp admits that prior to any first pitches being tossed and prior to Adam Dunn whiffing his first whiff, he is dialed in.

In a similar respect, John Tesh's laughably-named "Roundball Rock"—which was used by The NBA on NBC for over a decade to bookend commercial breaks, and soundtracked much of Jordan's dominance—also turned out to be the theme song for a once staunch Dominique Wilkins fan (he deserved that 1988 slam dunk title, let's be real) shaking his head in disbelief as 23 shrugged off another drained three-pointer against the Blazers in the 1992 finals. The song's notes became a signal for all NBA fans to return to their televisions, because Jordan was about to pile onto his legacy.

The video of the song being performed live is campy and theatrical, and Tesh is such a ham—who leaves a message on his own answering machine and identifies himself first?—but damn it if the number doesn't hum along with a jingle-like catchiness and pomp that's so very, well, 90s (not to mention, there's a holler out to the Bulls dynasty). Even the electric violin and guitar duel, as ridiculous as it is, seems thrilling, though it's really just a couple of dudes making faces while dressed to the nines in a hybrid of pirate and 19th-century French army garb.

Honestly, I just can't wait to hear Marv Albert exclaim "Yes!"

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