Kyrie Irving may have just solidified his future in Cleveland, but his stardom has been well known in the world of YouTube for his Uncle Drew commercials for Pepsi MAX, which may be the best basketball short-films ever. Uncle Drew is a fictional character that the Cavaliers star began playing for Pepsi back in 2012. Kyrie undergoes a complete transformation by putting on make-up to look like an old man. In the first episode Uncle Drew goes to Bloomfield, New Jersey to play a pick-up game with a bunch of “young bloods.”
Irving, as Uncle Drew drives out to the street courts complaining of all the new fangled things young kids have these days like hippy hop and cheap headphones. Drew is there to watch his nephew play some basketball, but when a player gets injured his nephew says his Uncle Drew can fill in the players on both teams look skeptical at first. Irving starts out slow, missing a few shots and moves lethargically. He quickly picks up the pace putting on a display of skills that amazes the unknowing spectators. Even knowing that Kyrie is under the layers of make-up, watching an old man do cross-overs, step back jumpers, reverse play-ups and slam dunks brings belly-shaking laughter to the viewer. The episode ends with Uncle Drew saying, “It is too easy out here on these young bloods,” and then unveiling the creation of the geriatric character.
Episode two of the Pepsi MAX Uncle Drew series starts with Bill Russell, an 11 time NBA Champion giving a monologue on how basketball was in the old days. The Celtics legend ends by saying “what these young bloods have to understand is that this game has always been and will always be about buckets.” Russell tells Drew that he is a real baller and needs to put his team back together again. Drew goes out to find Wes, played by Kevin Love, to be the first member of his reformed team. This pairing has led some to speculate that Love will join Irving in Cleveland someday soon in the NBA.
Wes and Drew go out to the Jim Gilliam Park in Crenshaw, just outside of Los Angeles, California. Wes says he will need a few minutes to warm up as they claim next on the court. Drew (Irving) and Wes (Love) of course shoot a few air balls to build up the suspension and lull the opponents into a false sense of security. Some would call it hustling if they were playing for money. Wes begins hitting some step back shots and Drew wants a “1-2 skip to my Lou.” Wes sets up a pick and roll with Drew supplying the pocket pass for a sweet slam-dunk. Wes then hits an opposing player with a wicked screen that knocks the player right off his feet, and is followed immediately by an alley-oop.
The best commercials ever for Pepsi MAX continue in episode three when Uncle Drew enlists the help of Lights, played by Nate Washington. Drew meets Lights in an underground jazz club in Chicago to ask him to join his team. Lights plays jazz for the club and Betty, presumably the proprietor, does not want him to leave to play basketball again. Plus he just got his second hip replacement. Of course the two men leave as soon as she walks away.
Lights and Drew go out to the Seward Park courts of downtown Chicago to play some ball with other unsuspecting players who only know they will be filmed for a “basketball documentary.” As usual Lights has to warm up to the game. Drew watches from the crowd, but then gives Lights a pep talk and jukes up a player with a filthy spin move that leads to a finger roll lay-up. Lights, played by Robinson, has a 44-inch max vertical leap and used it all on a great alley-oop from Irving. The camera then pans to the crowd who are going wild and the viewer sees Betty all dressed up in her tracksuit. She has come to play. Betty comes out and starts hitting backboard jumpers and three pointers. She even takes it to the hoop for a slam-dunk off of a fast break. Maya Moore, a WMBA all-star for the Minnesota Lynx, plays Betty.
Drew and company are set up for their hardest test yet, finding a big-man for the team in episode four. Kyrie actually writes and directs all of the episodes as well as staring in them. Irving just signed a max five-year contract for $90 million for the Cavaliers, but fans hope he will make time for more Uncle Drew commercials with Pepsi MAX to continue some of the best ever short-films on YouTube.
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash