Honestly, I’m impressed at just just how accurate it is to the Pokémon games
Listen, I can’t hope to ever fully understand modern sports. The last time I followed anything about basketball was when I played NBA Street for the PlayStation 2 (which is still, hands-down, an incredibly fun series to play). But, what I do know is video games and especially Pokémon.
Most times when a non-video game company uses a popular game in homage, they “half-ass” it. It’s usually barely a reference, if not entirely infuriatingly inaccurate. The Chicago Bulls, however, clearly have some pro-Pokémon trainers on their marketing staff.
Instead of just making a quick infographic or a blog article, they took it one step further with a video. But, that video positions Benny the Bull, their mascot, as the protagonist of a classic Game Boy-era Pokémon game.
We’re not talking about some small homage either. This video is full pixel art, designed to resemble the original Pokémon Red and Blue games. The music is just right and just off enough that it feels familiar, but is copyright free.
In the video, Benny is roaming around the city, making his way to the United Center, the Bulls’ infamous stadium. Once inside, he walks around the court, going into battle with rival teams’ coaches.
For instance, the first battle is against the San Antonio Spurs’ “Coach Pop” (also known as Gregg Popovich). He sends out “Wemby”, or Victor Wembanyama, who is too tall for the screen and is just a pair of legs due to being 7’5 in real life.
Each time Benny wins, he’s told when the Bulls will be playing against that particular team. In the middle, he pickles up a Popcorn Bag, parodying and directly quoting when you find Leftovers in Celadon City, originally seen in the Pokémon Gold and Silver games.
The best part, a joke that even I understood, is when Schedule Master (The NBA Commissioner Adam Silver), the final boss, sends out “Bron”, a parody of LeBron James, complete with a crown on his head during the battle. There are a few great details to this one.
Bron has the audio of the meme where the little kid says “Lebron James” a bunch of times.
His level is at 20, to show how many years he’s been playing, which is exactly 20 during this upcoming season.
His crown falls off after he’s defeated (spoiler alert, I guess).
His sprite and pose are both a direct homage to Giovanni, the final gym leader and head of Team Rocket in Pokémon Red and Blue.
After the battle, Benny earns the whole schedule, which flashes quickly on the screen. Then, the game zooms out to see a real-life version of Benny playing a Game Boy Color with Pokémon Red in the back of it, laying atop the United Center.
The drone camera zooms out to show how small he is by comparison. It ends with a “To Be Continued”.
Prior to the much larger 4-minute video, they dropped a title and New Game (or “New Season”) video with the NBA commissioner Adam Silver taking the place of Professor Oak. The fact that you end the game by facing him feels like a direct reference itself to the fact that there is evidence that players may have been able to face off against Professor Oak at the end of the original games in some cut content.
Additionally, all of the Bulls that were shown in the video, including Benny, got their own custom stats screen based on the screens from the original Pokémon games.
I’m honestly just super impressed at the detail and research that went into this little video. You can watch the video over on X / Twitter on the Chicago Bulls official account. The official schedule, as expected, did also get an easier-to-read version posted, still in the font and cues from Pokémon.