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‘You’re willing to try’: Adam Morrison relives college career-ending moment in AT&T advertisement

Former Zags player Adam Morrison shakes hands with former NBA player Greg Oden during an AT&T ad.  (Courtesy of AT&T)
Former Zags player Adam Morrison shakes hands with former NBA player Greg Oden during an AT&T ad. (Courtesy of AT&T)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

The images are as clear as the memories of the nights they happened – one came after a glorious game-winner, and the other, a devastating and gut-wrenching defeat.

In 2006, Adam Morrison fell to the floor at midcourt after the final horn sounded, overwhelmed by the emotions of his Bulldog career ending abruptly. That heartbreaking battle against UCLA sent the Bruins to the Elite Eight after Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored with under 10 seconds to go to steal the 73-71 win.

Fifteen years later, Jalen Suggs is standing on the media table, arms in the air, celebrating – arguably – the most clutch shot in Gonzaga history to send the Bulldogs to the national championship his freshman year.

A Saturday night in 2021, Suggs metaphorically helped Morrison off his haunches with his near-halfcourt buzzer-beater – purifying the L.A. smog that hung over the program. But last week, when the NCAA Tournament tipped off, it was Greg Oden – a former No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft to the Portland Trail Blazers – who helped Morrison up off a Los Angeles beach in a commercial for AT&T.

Morrison’s is among several AT&T commercials this season featuring beloved Zags past and present.

In the commercial that has been airing often across the Turner Sports channels, Morrison is sitting on the beach with his phone – similar to how he was sitting in the Oakland Arena in 2006 – watching a replay of himself after loss to UCLA . Morrison appears at the 13-second mark and is on screen for about 10 seconds of the 30-second spot.

Oden reaches down to help him up as they both sing along to the song, and you hear Morrison and Oden sing, “You’re willing to try… .”

This specific commercial was an ode to the famous Luther Vandross song “One Shining Moment” (written by David Barrett) that has been the feature song to close out every March Madness since 1987. CBS uses the Luther Vandross version.

In a nod to March Madness, the commercial says how “madness loves company,” with AT&T pointing to its nationwide 5G as a way to stay connected to the tournament and the people who enjoy it.

The commercial features other famous former March Madness figures like Duke star Christian Laettner, Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams, South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson and Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu.

Morrison had never met Oden, who now is an assistant coach at Butler under Thad Matta.

Oden – who Morrison described as a nice guy – laughed at the jersey and shorts the former Zag rolled out onto the beach with.

His navy blue shorts billowed below his knees, a big no-no in today’s basketball scene as players are hiking them up farther and farther, more akin to the 1960s and ’70s era.

AT&T was unable to secure a Morrison jersey because none was ever made before the current name, image and likeness deal that exists now.

“They told me they couldn’t find an official Morrison jersey,” he said. “So that literally was my college jersey that I wore my junior year. I had it in my closet, tucked away somewhere, and I had to go find it.”

Laettner, one of the more polarizing players in NCAA history, spent 15 to 20 minutes talking with Morrison.

“He is obviously a legend and somebody I used to watch when I was a kid,” Morrison said.

But the zenith of his time came when he was able to pick Ionescu’s brain for 30 minutes about girls basketball because his daughter plays.

Ionescu plays for the New York Liberty in the WNBA.

“It was actually really neat,” Morrison said.

“I’m standing right next to her the whole time when we’re doing that group shot,” he said. “I’m invested in girls basketball with my daughter playing and then she played for (former Gonzaga women’s coach) Kelly (Graves) and I know Kelly, so that was cool. And then (former Bulldog) Courtney (Vandersloot) is going to play for the Liberty, so I was talking to her about strategy with the Liberty.”

Morrison then asked and received an autograph from her.

“It was a fun day of shooting,” he said.

It only took 10 takes to nail his parts, Morrison said. The group shots also took about 10 takes.

AT&T, one of the largest sponsors of the NCAA and its tournaments, is well-known for its commercials that feature actress Milana Vayntrub as Lily.

“Lily” kept it really light for the other members of the commercial, who were self-conscious about the singing and dancing scenes.

“That part was awkward,” he said. “She said, ‘Oh, you guys are fine, trust me. Just be yourselves and it’ll be fine.’ ”

The commercial came to life in mid-February when Morrison was traveling for Learfield with Zag play-by-play man Tom Hudson.

Days before the Zags games against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine, Morrison’s former agency reached out with an offer for an AT&T commercial.

Morrison has been offered commercials in the past, but most of them portray his UCLA moment in a negative light, so he would always give a firm no.

It took a conversation with a woman who worked for Morrison’s agent to reaffirm that the moment would be for a positive use.

Then he was in.

He flew back to Spokane on Feb. 19, then back to L.A. on the 21st.

Morrison was in a FanDuel ad last year, an NBA Live video game ad in 2007 and a tiny one with an image of him and former UCLA player Ryan Hollins.

“That was a nice little check to get,” Morrison said.

This AT&T ad paid Morrison a lump sum for his time on the L.A. beach.

Morrison isn’t the only AT&T advertising reference to the Bulldogs this year.

Another one is former Zag Chet Holmgren, who spent last season in Spokane, hanging out in a vehicle that retrieves golf balls at a driving range.

Aside from the comical nature of a 7-foot-1 human tucked into the backseat, Holmgren is teamed up with the former Gamecock Wilson and AT&T’s Lily and Vicky.

His line is, “What happened?” when Vicky gets a phone call during a live stream of a tournament game.

The other reference is with Memphis Grizzlies center Adams, holding two men up on his arms while watching Drew Timme flex during a game in the McCarthey Athletic Center.

One of the actors – Eddie Ramos – is wearing a No. 1 Gonzaga jersey.

Even though he has the navy blue jersey on, Ramos is a Syracuse fan, according to his Twitter, even showing up to filming with an Orange jersey on.

But for five seconds, before the AT&T jingle plays at the end of the commercial, there is pep band music playing in the background.

That melody is the first five seconds of the Gonzaga fight song.

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