For casual basketball fans and devoted basketball lovers alike, USA Films' "Greatest NBA Finals Moments" DVD is an extremely comprehensive and enjoyable examination of some of the most incredible NBA finals games played during the history of the league. While the footage included weighs heavily in favor of the finals' matchups from the past two decades, this DVD really seeks to take an in-depth look at the NBA's great dynasties, and manages to do so while reflecting all the awe and excitement of so many different finals teams and games. From the Boston Celtics during the Bill Russell years, all the way up to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, this hour long documentary looks at the great players and teams who have transformed the sport and accomplished greatness.
The game footage remains intense and exciting, even if one already knows the outcome of the games. The producers and editor have done a fantastic job of sifting through hours of great NBA Finals footage to find the most shining examples of the greatness of the game and its players. An especially enjoyable experience is reliving games which one remembers having actually watched, giving an additional perspective. Also enjoyable is the opportunity to see many of games greats in their prime and as they were just coming into the league.
In addition to player footage and interviews with such greats as Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, former Senator and New York Knick Bill Bradley, and the always enjoyable Magic Johnson, this DVD actually has some of its most impressive bonus features tied directly into the DVD. While watching the documentary, the viewer can frequently use their remote at certain prompts to pull up individual player statistics, alternate angles, and additional documentary footage which serves as a nice aside, providing the viewer with even greater depth on a subject. These features greatly enhance the viewer's enjoyment of the documentary, and can really help put a player's accomplishments in context. Unlike the "When it was a Game" series focusing on baseball, this documentary largely shies away from any low points of the game and just focuses on the great moments of the sport in its finest matchups. It does do a fine job of demonstrating how different players and teams arose from some moments of adversity to attain greatness, and also highlights a number of the games great rivalries, most notably, that between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
While it would be fantastic to see NBA basketball obtain greater coverage than this hour-long documentary, it is a fun and enjoyable documentary and a great tribute to the league, its teams and their players.
The image presentation of this documentary varies with the footage it uses. The digital transfer has done little to erase some of the graininess of games from the 1970s and before, but the presentation, in full screen projection is about as good as could be expected. The footage from the last few years looks fantastic, as does the interview footage. Particularly in the newer footage, the colors come through vividly and there are few imperfections in the transfer. The Sound
Again, the quality of the sound transfer varies with the footage used in the documentary. The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and generally sounds good, although the surround sound features seemed a bit under-utilized, with only the music clearly utilizing the full surround sound capabilities. The sound quality of the earlier broadcasts does sound somewhat flat, but obviously there was little that could be done. The music, the sounds from the court in the footage used in the documentary, and the interviews themselves are easy to hear and understand, however, and the sound transfer doesn't have many actually shortcomings which aren't attributable to the age of the sound recording.
This DVD actually comes with an impressive amount of bonus materials. In addition to the above mentioned additional materials which may be accessed during the film, the DVD contains a list of every NBA finals, the teams, the scores and records, and the MVPs of the finals. This helps to make this DVD an NBA Trivia buff's dream. The DVD also contains a segment on the NBA's fifty greatest players, a music video (which is basically the first four minutes of the documentary feature with a bit more music), highlights of the 1999 NBA Finals and the 2000 NBA Finals, DVD-ROM features including access to an NBA photo gallery and a screen saver, and additional short segments on Michael Jordan, John Havlicek, Magic, Larry Bird, Chuck Daly, Phil Jackson and the 1970 New York Knicks.
Both the "NBA at 50" and the "50 Greatest Players" features focus on a designation of the greatest guards, forwards and centers to play in the NBA which was made at the 1997 All-Star game. The "NBA at 50" feature is merely footage of the ceremony showing each player's introduction, while the 50 Greatest Players feature goes a bit more in-depth, with a quick look at the accomplishments of each player selected, with a few interview segments sliced in to give a bit more perspective. These two features are relatively short in duration, but help focus on players who had a tremendous impact on the game, but seemed to slip through the cracks a bit more with respect to the great NBA Finals dynasties, most notably, Wilt Chamberlain. In addition, while the ceremony itself shows these players as they were in 1997, the other feature shows footage of these players on the basketball court and in their prime. As an essential viewing as the feature itself, these two segments really bolster the DVD nicely.
Finally, the DVD contains bonus statistics on a handful of the top players who have ever played the game, featuring Bill Russell, Willis Reed, John Havelicek, Dave Cowens, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan, providing individual career, playoff and all-star statistics for each.
For anyone wondering why so many people have such a love for NBA basketball, this DVD holds the answer. It truly reflects the game at its greatest, and is an extremely impressive examination of a large number of heroes, legends, and teams. It is a must-have for any basketball fan, and a fine introduction to anyone who is not yet a fan of the NBA.