clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Every basketball-related scene in Parks and Recreation, analyzed

In preparation for the big finale tonight (which I'm distraught over), we bring you every basketball-related scene our friends in Pawnee have ever given us.

A couple weeks ago, I got a brilliant idea. Someone should watch Parks and Recreation in it's entirety and document every basketball scene for the internet. Then, I got another one: *I* should do that! This show has such a huge part of my life the past seven years, and pretty much the only thing in my life the past two weeks as I re-watched it all. I hope you all enjoy it this as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

In a way, Parks and Rec was a perfect comparison to this year's Big East. No one really believed in it, but it kept us entertained through and through and we'll miss it immensely. For the most part, I'll have video clips of each scene for you, but in some cases, it'll be just be screengrabs.

All images are courtesy of NBC.


The end of the very first episode brings us our first basketball reference. The great Ronald Ulysses Swanson (much more to come on him) is explaining that, "My office my basketball court. I don't want to see any double-dribble, I don't want to see any three-second violations" before paying homage to Bobby Knight.


The second episode marks the first time we see Leslie's autographed Larry Bird picture, which is a constant throughout the series. I assume everyone in Indiana has one of those in their home or office.

"Sister City"

There he is, again. As the gang hosts a delegation from their sister city in Venezuela, they have a cardboard cutout of Larry Joe Bird. Because, of course they do. I've never been to a party in the state of Indiana, but I feel like Larry Bird cardboard cutouts are fairly common.

"The Camel"

There he is again. The gang is tasked with making a new mural for the city of Pawnee. Donna chooses to base hers off the Last Supper featuring Indiana celebrities like Greg Kinnear, David Letterman, Jim Gaffigan, and, of course, Larry Bird.


Finally! A video clip! The Parks and Rec department is hosting a telethon to cure diabetes. Who do they get as their VIP guest? Indiana Pacers legend Detlef Schrempf! The only problem? They let Tom show him around town. It leads to hilarious and uncomfortable scenes like the one above. I really do with there were more YouTube clips of their adventures, because they're all absolutely hilarious. SPOILER: You'll see Detlef later on in this post, as well.

"Go Big or Go Home"

The third season opens with a bang. The government shutdown is over, but Pawnee is still struggling. However, Ben Wyatt lets the gang know that, "Apparently, in Indiana, if you don't provide a basketball league people get very upset. And, quite frankly, throw things at you and call you names.". Who is tasked with coaching a team? Ron Swanson, of course. He takes after his hero Bobby Knight with the red sweater look (and also throwing a chair across the court), and throws in a bit of John Wooden with the Pyramid of Greatness. Embedding on the YouTube videos of the scene is disabled, but if you want to hear Ron explain the Pyramid (you do, trust me), click right here.

"Harvest Festival"

It's the big Harvest Festival in Pawnee and the crew needs to get a big star to cement the event. Larry Bird? No way. Larry's 84-year-old Aunt Tilda. She'll be signing autographs during the festival. I really want to believe that Larry Bird is so beloved in Indiana that an elderly relative would be the main attraction of a small-town festival. And, actually, I do believe it.

"Li'l Sebastian"

Told you Detlef would be back! in the end of the season three finale, we see that Tom has left the department to go open a new business with his friend Jean-Ralphio. One of the perks of the business? "Former NBA superstar Detlef Schrempf on retainer". Detlef is also the only sound business mind out of the three of them, which is an issue.

"Ron and Tammys"

Detlef Schrempf is back once again! Who joins him this time? Former Georgetown Hoya and current Indiana Pacer Roy Hibbert! Hibbert's also employed by Tom and Jean-Ralphio, and his main jobs, as you can see, are to lift Jean-Ralphio up to do some sick oops and play one-on-one with Detlef. Why Roy Hibbert? As Tom mentions, "The NBA's on strike, so we got him for like 75 percent of his original NBA salary".

"End of the World"

Roy Hibbert's back as Tom and Jean-Ralphio's "VIP shrimp distributor". Because, of course. If you have an NBA star on retainer, how else would you use him if not to reach tall places to grab shrimp cocktail.

"The Comeback Kid"

The quality on that video is awful, but it was the only one I could find. Leslie is running for city council and it's not going very well at this point. Who does she get to come to her rally? Local high school basketball hero "Pistol" Pete Disellio, famous for his game winning dunk in 1992 over rival Eagleton. Naturally, Leslie has Pete try to recreate the dunk, even though her rally is being held at an ice rink. It goes as well as you'd expect.

"Ben's Parents"

Leslie and Ben are planning their engagement party. Leslie invites, who else, Larry Bird? I'm actually very surprised they never got Larry Bird to make an appearance on the show, given the other Indiana athletes they've secured.

"Two Parties"

During Ben's bachelor party, the guys reveal that none of them have ever had a bachelor party. Naturally, they all decide to have them in one night. Ron's portion includes going to (the amazing) St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis. While there, Tom sees his old friend Roy Hibbert along with Miles Plumlee. I didn't even realize that was Miles Plumlee until I watched it again.

"Women in Garbage"

Embedding for the video, sans weird music, is disabled, which is sad, but i'm so glad there's a video clip. Ben and Andy realize that Tom is awful at basketball. They decide to try and teach him the fundamentals. It goes... about as well as you'd imagine, cumulating with the three getting beat down in a game by a team of middle schoolers.

"The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip Off Classic"

This is another one I had forgotten about until I re-watched the show. It's the big crosstown rivalry game, and who does Eagleton have as a ringer? Chris Bosh, forever the most tolerable member of Miami's Big Three. There's a hilarious backstory to this scene, in which Aubrey Plaza, who plays April, discusses meeting Bosh for the first time. You can find that right here.

"Moving Up"

We close on, perhaps, my favorite basketball-related P&R gag of all time. Pawnee is hosting a music festival, as most cities tend to do. The guys from Yo La Tengo have a guest spot in the Season 6 finale as "Bobby Knight Ranger", which is exactly what it sounds like. Guys that dress up in white wigs and red sweaters and play "Sister Christian". I'd gladly book them for any event I was hosting.


Alright. This one isn't basketball-related, but "Pony" by Ginuwine is an American treasure and I certainly wasn't going to omit this.

Enjoy the finale tonight, everyone!