The difference between Nike's Basketball Never Stops ad campaign during the NBA lockout and the "Start the Season" commercials run during the 1998 lockout tell fans what they don't want to hear: get used to life without NBA basketball.
Let's compare Nike commercials from the 1998 lockout and the 2011 lockout.
Nike and Sam Jackson mock some guys playing H-O-R-S-E in the driveway.
Nike glamorizes people playing pickup in a parking lot, at an arcade with Sue Bird, in Harlem with Amare Stoudemire and in China with LeBron James.
Nike and Spike Lee mock a basketball game in a Catholic school girls league.
Jordan Brand glamorizes Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony playing in every rec league they can find from the Women's Bayou League to the Jewish Under 40 league.
Everyone knows that NBA fans want the games back by Christmas but Nike seems to be saying otherwise. The shift in slogans from "Start the season. Hurry." in 1998 to "Basketball Never Stops" in 2011 speaks volumes.
After the success of the 2011 season, it would make sense for Nike to re-use the "Start the Season. Hurry" slogan as fans anticipate how the Miami Heat bounce back from losing the NBA Finals, how the New York Knicks look with a full season and training camp of Melo and Amare and whether Kobe Bryant and the Lakers can redeem themselves from being swept out the playoffs.
That's not what Nike did, however.
Maybe they saw the same signs in 2011 that Washington Post columnist Tom Boswell predicted during the 1998 lockout:
"Commissioner David Stern and agent David Falk, deputy commissioner Russ Granik and union head Billy Hunter, are doing a textbook job of setting the stage for years of anger, future strikes, erosion of public image and finally — who knows? — maybe 13 years from now, one final battle as idiotic as the one from which baseball is still trying to recover."
When no one expected the lockout to last that long, Nike's slogan was "Start the season. Hurry." When everyone expected "one final battle", Nike's slogan was "Basketball Never Stops."
It looks like LeBron will be working on his game without the Heat coaching staff well past Christmas.