“The Office,” Basketball Episode: An American Classic

By David Ford

On Aug. 30, a friend of mine convinced me to make the trip to New York City where Creed Bratton would be taking pictures and signing autographs at the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball game. The trip was worth every penny. For Creed, it was a complete display of human godliness.

Creed Bratton plays a fictionalized version of himself on the greatest television series in history, “The Office.” He’s won several Dundies awards, delivered classic one-liners, all while never knowing exactly what his job was with the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company was. Creed is iconic as they come.

In general, my column focus on sports topics, but my meeting of Creed inspired me to find any means necessary to write a sports-related column, as well as pay tribute to “The Office,” my all-time favorite show.

Released on April 19, 2005, “The Office” episode Basketball sets an example for any basketball filmmaking that follows.

Essentially, the entire plot revolves around the office and warehouse battling it out in a winner-take-all game of basketball. No holds barred, Scranton-style hoops. The winner gets the weekend off. The loser works on Saturday.

According to the season one DVD commentary, the inspiration for the episode was from a deleted scene in the pilot where Michael talks to the office about playing a game of hoops.

At the beginning, regional manager Michael Scott picks his team solely based on which employees he likes (Ryan Howard, Jim Halpert), people he’s forced to pick (Dwight Schrute), and players whose skills he assumes based on their racial background (Stanley Hudson). He denies Phyllis and Kevin based on their physical stature, both of whom possess athletic skill.

Throughout the series, Michael proved adept at filmmaking (“Threat Level Midnight”), paper sales, as well as ice skating. Basketball just wasn’t his calling.

Despite being the worst player on the court, Michael takes the role of team captain. In typical fashion, he makes questionable play calls. Advantage Team Warehouse.

In another athletics-based episode, Michael takes the initiative of leading yet another athletic event, in the form The Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run for the Cure.

Like his basketball skills, Michael defied conventional thinking. Rabies had already been cured; the donations were largely wasted on purchasing a giant check, all while having a stripper collect the money. Both episodes are hilarious, in their own ways.

For one major reason; however, Basketball became an instant classic. Despite Michael’s obnoxious and cocky attitude, he is an absolute disaster on the court. He hassles opponents and teammates alike, he launches free throws nowhere near the basket, and can’t defend a single person within the game, yet he trash talks the other team. Some might call it cockiness; I call it confidence.

“I might just be a basketball machine,” Michael says. It might not be true, but based on work ethic alone, he’s right. It’s best to assume you’re the best player on the court.

The game itself left the audience at the edge of their seats. Halpert played a physical brand of basketball to impress the receptionist, Pam. Dwight stole the ball from teammates to score and impress Michael. Ryan trickled the twine from outside the arc. Michael, of course, failed to competently throw the ball toward the hoop. Stanley couldn’t even dribble it, but the office team played their hearts out.

On paper, this team was too much for the warehouse. In the game, both teams showed grit.

While the office technically wins, the warehouse intimidates Michael into admitting defeat.

Unfortunately, no additional games take place during the series’ nine seasons, but with rumors of a revival in the works at NBC, we can only dream that those who return will lace up their sneakers one more time.

In the meantime, Basketball lives on as some of the finest sports footage caught on camera. A true American classic.