A Look Back at NBA Weakest Link

27 08 2010

Let me take you back to June of 2001, when Steely Dan ruled the airwaves after winning Album of the Year at the Grammys and the hilarious Rush Hour 2 owned the box office. It was a simpler time, full of wonder and love.

In the wake of the success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, it was also a moment in which every broadcast network was trying to find the next game show hit. NBC tried out The Weakest Link, a team-based game with painfully simple questions in which a series of high-school graduates nevertheless failed to make impressive amounts of money. In order to promote the show, NBC made it a part of their halftime program during the Finals, just with basketball personalities instead of regular Americans just trying to grab a buck.

Apparently they had trouble finding willing participants: three of the five contestants are employees of NBC Sports. Plus, Baron Davis has since proven that he’s willing to do anything for publicity and Lisa Leslie was trying to promote the fledgling WNBA. Clearly, this lack of interest spelled doom for The Weakest Link, which NBC canceled just a year later.

Still, if you watch, you learn some things about the contestants. Bill Walton, who we often think of as interested in things other than basketball, plays for the charity of the NBA Retired Players’ Association. Bob Costas seems rather intelligent, but he gets voted off first and uses the word “surmise” in his exit interview to seem smarter. Baron Davis is supposed to struggle in a team atmosphere, but he makes it to the end, only to fail completely in the 1-on-1 finals.

It’s exciting stuff, outside of host Anne Robinson’s put-upon villainy and forced antagonism. We get it, Anne, you think you’re above shilling for NBC’s sports product. But look on the bright side: at least they’re not Welsh!

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