‘Be Like Mike’: The Story Behind Michael Jordan’s Iconic Gatorade Commercial Song

"Be Like Mike" helped turn Michael Jordan's Gatorade commercials into instant classics.

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Image via Complex Original
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In the clip above, you'll find a commercial that will likely make you feel nostalgic, old, or both, depending on what your age is. It features a song called "Be Like Mike" that is almost certain to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day once you hear it. The song helped turn the commercial, which was created for Gatorade, into one of the most iconic commercials of Michael Jordan's career. The commercial campaign surrounding the song was so good that Gatorade actually brought it back last year.

The composer for the catchy tune used in the commercial, Ira Antelis​—fun fact: He also came up with the "I'm Lovin' It" jingle for McDonald's—was on the Brown and Scoop show on the Play.it podcast network Friday to talk about how the original 1991 "Be Like Mike" commercial came together.

According to Antelis, it all started when Gatorade bought ad space without coming up with a definitive concept for a commercial first. Their original idea was to air Jordan footage set to the tune of "I Wanna Be Like You" from the Disney movie The Jungle Book. However, as they tend to do, negotiations for rights to the song fell through. Antelis believes  this was the reason why Jordan never said that he wanted to go to Disney World after winning a championship like so many other pro athletes have done in the past (as if MJ would be so petty). It forced Gatorade to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new idea.

"They actually tried to buy the song or license the song from Disney from The Jungle Book 'I Want To Be Like You,'" Antelis said on the podcast. "What happened was...negotiations broke down like mid-week and they literally bought airtime for the following Monday that they wanted to air this commercial thinking that they had 'I Want To Be Like You.' They couldn't negotiate it, which I think is one of the reasons why when Michael Jordan won all his championships, he would never say, 'I'm going to Disney World.' I think he still resented it."

With a deadline looming, Gatorade was left with the task of trying to come up with a new song in just a few days, and they asked several companies to create one for them. Antelis' company won the right to be featured in the commercial after creating the melody for "Be Like Mike" in about 15 minutes. Antelis says it led to him getting tons of calls from New York City and Los Angeles ad agencies who were suddenly interested in his work.

You can check out Antelis' entire interview from the podcast below. It's crazy to hear how history was made in a matter of just minutes.

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