Utah Jazz chip off a piece ’90s nostalgia for Lauri Markkanen All-Star campaign

The Finnish forward is the team’s top hope for an All-Star when the annual showcase comes to Salt Lake City next month.

(Utah Jazz) For forward Lauri Markkanen's NBA All-Star campaign, the Utah Jazz leaned into 1990s nostalgia.

The Jazz feel they have a surefire All-Star in Lauri Markkanen — but how could the team support his campaign to be voted in by fans as an All-Star starter?

As Ben Barnes, the Jazz’s senior brand director, and his team discussed the concept, there was one thing that stood out: the cheesy nickname posters that defined 1990s NBA culture. The one in most teenage bedrooms locally was Karl Malone’s “Special Delivery” poster, referencing his famous “The Mailman” moniker.

The classic Karl Malone "Special Delivery" poster.

Because Utah is hosting the NBA’s All-Star Game for the first time since 1993, it made sense to go back to that era for All-Star promotion for this season, too. So the Jazz decided to build around Markkanen’s “The Finnisher” nickname for his poster. But how to bring “The Finnisher” to life?

In the end, Barnes met with Markkanen to discuss what the nickname meant to him, and how they could pull off a photo shoot here in Salt Lake City. He was proud of its ties to his homeland, and so wanted a theme that had something to do with Finland — in the end, choosing its famous chilly climate as the touchstone.

One obvious trend in those classic ‘90s posters was the props and staging used, so the team didn’t want to use Photoshop in order to make the poster come to life. Instead, a special visual effects team was brought in, who acquired six 300-lb blocks of ice and a backboard they could shatter for the poster.

The shoot didn’t go off without a hitch: the team’s first attempt was scuttled by Markkanen’s fever that cost him three games in early December. Eventually, a walk-in freezer at Vivint Arena was found that would keep the blocks of ice fresh for the postponed shoot.

But once Markkanen was healthy, he was impressed with the setup. Photography took about an hour and a half — which also included time for the Finn and his family to take photos for their annual Christmas cards.

“We set the standard very high for next year’s (cards),” Markkanen joked.

The finished poster for Lauri Markkanen's All-Star campaign.

Full-sized posters were sent to Utah and national media alike, who are part of the voting pool for the NBA’s All-Star starters. If Markkanen isn’t selected as a starter, the Western Conference’s coaches will decide if he gets to represent the Jazz in the Feb. 19th All-Star Game as a reserve. He’ll be one of the leading candidates remaining in the conference’s frontcourt slots, once superstars Nikola Jokic, LeBron James, and Zion Williamson are off the board.

The poster has already found a home in one key spot, though: Markkanen’s 5-year-old son’s room.

“As long as he wants to keep it up, it’ll be up,” Markkanen said.