The NBA Faced an Existential Crisis
In 1999, the NBA faced a six-month labor dispute that ended with the season getting cut to just 50 games. The most popular star at the time was Michael Jordan, and he had just announced his retirement for the second time. In the following years, the league experienced a significant drop in TV ratings and average attendance. There were new stars emerging on the basketball scene, such as Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Dirk Nowitzki, but they were just starting to gain loyal fans.
Lil Bow Wow Entered the Scene
During that time, a new hip-hop star entered the scene, discovered by none other than Snoop Dogg. Shad Moss, known then as Lil Bow Wow, was only 11 years old. He very quickly became one of the most beloved kid performers in the country. His first album, Beware of Dog, went platinum in 2001. The music star started making cameos in TV shows and small movies. It was clear that the boy had excellent camera presence, charm, and personality.
Like Mike Came Out in 2002
Like Mike is an early 2000s movie about a 13-year-old boy, Calvin Cambridge, who wore magical sneakers that belonged to and gave him the basketball skills of, basketball all-star Michael Jordan. Calvin joins a struggling (fictional) team called the Los Angeles Knights and brings them into the big leagues where they faced off against real, established, and up-and-coming NBA superstars like Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Alonzo Mourning, and Jason Kidd.
Casting Shad Moss
Michael Elliott was the writer of Like Mike and the movie was produced by Peter Heller. When they saw Moss’s basketball skills, they were impressed and sent the script to the star’s mother. She approved of the idea of her son being in the movie. Like Mike grossed $52 million and had a fruitful DVD afterlife that had immense popularity with young millennials at the time. The movie helped lead basketball and hip-hop into the mainstream, and the NBA started seeing an immense uprise in popularity, especially among young adults.