Quick Hits

From time to time, we like to do this quick hits section to log a few things that have our attention.   And away we go…

1. Drizzle

Fresh on the back of his latest concert in Portland, Oregon, it has been leaked that Drake and Jordan Brand have reached an agreement.  I think that it was confirmed on Michael Jordan’s Twitter feed.  I am going to be scratching my head about this one for a long time.  Last week, Kanye was burning up the airwaves shouting about how NIKE, Jordan Brand’s parent, wouldn’t pay him royalties.  So he was taking his ball and leaving to take his talents to adidas.

This week, Drake signs with Jordan.  I am not sure who made that decision, but Drake will never be the artist or the style icon that Kanye is.  We can also be certain that Drake is not getting any royalties in his deal.  Granted Kanye is a loudmouth loose cannon, but his NIKE Air Yeezy was one of the hottest NIKE shoes of the past few years.  Will Drake offer similar heat?  I think NOT.  I would love to be wrong about this one, but I am imagining a lot of lame Drizzy rhymes with Jordan Brand.

As a child of 1980s, I must step back and admire how far the art form of rap has evolved.  I am almost certain that Run-DMC got their adidas sponsorship many years after their mega-hit “My Adidas.”  Now, you have a Canadian artist signing with basketball’s only luxury brand and he is not even close to the hottest rapper in the game at the moment.  Get yours, Drizzy!!

2. If it is nice, do it twice.

The NBA marketing office must be salivating over this one.  Any time you put a basketball player next to the world’s #1 soccer player, it is a huge opportunity to attract a legion of soccer fans to the game of basketball.  Turkish Airlines decided to repeat their extremely successful ad campaign featuring Kobe Bryant and Soccer giant Lionel Messi.  Their first ad campaign got 105 million YouTube views alone.   The newest ad campaign, The Selfie Shootout, should be equally successful.  If you ever ask yourself why the NBA is playing pre-season games in Turkey, ad campaigns like this one by Turkey’s #1 airline show you just how popular the sport of basketball is in Turkey, a country of nearly 80 million people.


Creating travel delays for your fellow traveler is bad basketball juju

Check out the video above to see how UF lost to UConn last night.  In Gainesville, there were at least 50 people who were not annoyed by the loss.  Delta cancelled a flight of 50 passengers in Gainesville who were traveling to Atlanta, so it could give the plane to the UF basketball team to be used as a charter to take the team to Connecticut for the game.  Of course, the UF program is disclaiming any knowledge that their charter screwed over the waiting passengers.  Hey Gators, follow the golden rule next time and maybe you won’t get your hearts broken at the buzzer.


The Future Is Now

imgres     MapMyFitness-logo

The world of sport is rapidly changing as a result of the digital frontier. A few weeks ago, Under Armour, a relatively new brand in basketball and a significant player in the athletic training business, invested $150 Million to buy an app company, Map My Fitness. Map My Fitness is a digital fitness platform that runs on both the iOS and Android platforms with over 20 million users worldwide and also includes its flagship brands, Map My Ride and Map My Run.

This acquisition is quite significant for a few reasons. The first is the purchase price represents nearly 10% of Under Armour’s annual revenues, but several of the app company’s products are free and would offer no substantial immediate revenue. It almost seems too expensive for the value that it delivers. Secondly, the traditional model for growth in sporting goods business has been through expensive sponsorship and endorsement deals. Under Armour has yet to find an elite signature athlete in any of its big sports — soccer, basketball or football. Its biggest to date are Stephen Curry, Cam Newton and Auburn University, quite popular as of late after the miraculous Alabama upset over the weekend. However, rather than saving this money to attempt to sign one of the elite NBA prospects joining the league next season (Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, etc.) or to throw crazy money at Kevin Durant who will be a free agent soon, Under Armour opted to invest in the digital world. Third, it places Under Armour second in the digital sport world behind NIKE with its NIKE+ running and Fuelband communities, but ahead of adidas and Puma. I think that this is the real reason that Under Armour spent the money.

By the way, if you know the founders of MapMyFitness, you might want to call and ask for a loan or even their hand in marriage. They got a sale price of $150M for a company that is only 6 years old. OMG!


All is right in the world

TJB Readers:

Check out the new Foot Locker ad campaign as Kyrie Irving tries to put right all that is wrong in the world.  I particularly loved the fact that Craig Sager set fire to his closet full of hideous blazers.  Enjoy!!


It’s just business…

I am just going to come out and say it.  Jason Collins is the best unsigned big man right now.

C’mon son, you say? Crazy, you say?  Perhaps.  But I say yeahhhhhh, sonnnnnnn crazy like a fox.

Collins has a career average of 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game over his NBA career.  Those statistics are not setting the league on fire.  However, Collins has always been a rugged post presence and gladly uses his 6 fouls to fill up the stat sheet in ways that his limited offensive skills do not.  He has a wealth of playoff experience.  He has also shot 70% from the free throw line in the last few seasons, so you do not have to bench him to hide him from the “Hack-A-Shaq” defense.  Yes, I know that Big Aristotle has been retired for a few years now, but none of the TV talking heads have come up with a better name than “Hack-A-Shaq”.  Collins has never been a locker room cancer.  He knows his role and embraces it with a smile.  Lastly, his salary should be barely over $1million for the season.

Let’s compare him to the available players on the market.  The first candidate is Eddy Curry.  He is a talented, but overweight center with a faulty ticker (both literally and figuratively).  Curry is definitely not one of those players who makes you believe that he would be playing basketball if it paid like a pizza delivery guy.  Curry has been overweight and undermotivated for his entire career. Let’s leave him on the big man scrap heap where he belongs.

Next up, we will evaluate Joel Przybilla and Darko Milicic.  Przybilla has been an injury prone player his whole career and played up to the low expectations that basketball fans had for him at Minnesota.  Przybilla has averaged 7.0 points over his 14 year career, but he has never played for a championship contender.  Further, he has only played a full 82-game season an amazing 1 time for his whole career.  Milicic’s woes have been well documented over the years, so no need to dwell on them any further.  He was a victim of the hype machine that continues to follow European stretch fours and fives.  He never should have been drafted in the lottery (#2 pick in 2003).  Despite Joe Dumars’ brilliant career as a Hall of Fame player and successful tenure as general manager, he ensured that Detroit would not build a dynasty by picking Milicic over Melo, D-Wade, Chris Bosh and David West.  Don’t accuse me of having crystal clear vision because I have the benefit of hindsight.  The Milicic pick was a “WTF?” choice at the time among the baller community.  I watched Melo destroy guys during March Madness.  I knew that he was going to be a star.  Nuff said, I have already given Darko more ink than his career deserves.

If you look at power forwards, there is only one who merits discussion — Lamar Odom, affectionately called “Lam Lam” by his Kardashian in-laws.  You knew that it was curtains for a power forward from Queens who allowed himself to be called “Lam Lam” on national television.  It is like getting dropped off at the North Pole without a compass or cell phone.  There was no way back.

Teams for the past few seasons have tried to manage the media circus that comes with having a Kardashian family member in the locker room.  Even if you ignore the bizarre season that Odom had in Dallas, it is hard to ignore the fact that his Mavericks’ teammates showed him no pity when they took his playoff bonus money.  Odom earned a roster spot with the Clippers and then developed an unconfirmed crack habit.  As a GM, I think that you’d rather have Odom take some time to get his life together rather than have to worry about him trying to steal the team’s championship trophies or medical supplies from the training room for crack money.  C’mon, you know that everyone would suspect him as soon as the owner’s Rolex goes missing at the team facility.  Okay, poor joke.  I am sorry.  Seriously speaking, you cannot have a guy who is unstable in your locker room.

So where does this  lead?  Back to Jason Collins.  He works hard.  He could mentor your team’s young bigs on the fundamentals of post defense. He’s no Big Fundamental, but he can get the job done.  He would sell thousands of jerseys and put fans in some seats as you know the LGBT community is extremely well-capitalized.  He would generate a lot of good press and Collins is intelligent enough to handle the spotlight.   Signing Jason Collins is good basketball and good business.

PSA: GMs of the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, NY Knicks, and Cleveland Cavaliers, I hope that you are reading this blog.


Role Playing: Which guy are you?

ND Face and I were kicking around ideas for a summer basketball feature a few months ago and we came up with this concept.  Unfortunately, Nike and Dude Perfect released theirs first.  Nevertheless, this video is very well done and I laughed more than a few times while watching it.  If you see yourself reflected in this video, it is time to hit the courts alone and brush up on your skills.




All of the champagne bottles have been popped, all of the confetti has been dropped and the World Champion victory parade through Miami has been completed without LeBron getting decapitated by one of the bridges along the parade route, so another NBA season is in the books.  Are the Miami Heat really the World Champions?  I know that they beat a San Antonio Spurs team that has the most international NBA roster containing players from the USA, U.S. Virgin Islands, France, Argentina, Brasil, Australia and Canada, but does make Miami the best team in the world?  The NBA is certainly the most advanced and the highest revenue-generating league in the world, but does that make it the most competitive league in the world?

Although the USA is the birthplace of basketball, it is not the only place that it is played at a high level.  Let us not forget the 1992 Croatian silver medal team made up of NBA players Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja that played extremely well against the U.S. Dream Team losing by the narrowest margin in the 1992 Olympics (32 points) or the 2004 Argentine Olympic Gold Medal Team made up of NBA players Carlos Delfino, Andres Nocioni, Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, Walter Hermann and Luis Scola or the 2004 Italian Olympic Silver Medal Team that had ZERO NBA PLAYERS.  Yes, you read that correctly.  To remind you of recent history, the USA got the Bronze Medal in 2004 and lost to Italy and Argentina.  It is amazing how little that part of basketball history is discussed in the USA.

If we are going to discuss basketball outside of the USA, there is only one other place where it is played at an extremely high level, Europe.  Well, Europe is a continent and not a country, so where in Europe, right?  Almost every nation in Europe has its own national league.  There is no uniformity in the number of teams or the stature of each nation’s professional league.  Nearly all of the leagues have the system of promotion and relegation.  To put it in terms that the average NBA fan could understand, imagine that the two worst performing NBA teams each season were demoted to the NBA D-League and were forced to play as a D-League team until eligible for promotion.  That is relegation.  Promotion would mean that the top 2 NBA D-League teams would get promoted to the NBA each season. Relegation would certainly be a very strong incentive against LeBron Bowl or Stink for Wiggins campaigns.

The most important leagues in Europe are found in the following nations – Turkey, Spain, Italy, Greece, Israel and Russia.  Americans should have some familiarity with some European basketball teams like Maccabi Tel Aviv or CSKA Moscow.  Maccabi Tel Aviv has been the one time home of the following NBA players — Jordan Farmar, Jeremy Pargo, Tom Chambers, Omri Casspi, David Benoit, Will Bynum and Anthony Parker.  In 2005, Maccabi Tel-Aviv became the first European team to beat a NBA team, Toronto Raptors, and it happened on North American soil.  To give some insight into Maccabi’s dominance, it has won the national league in Israel 50 TIMES!

Another famous moment in European basketball that should have captured the American hoop fan’s attention was this hugely popular video of a game in the Adriatic league — Cibona vs. Partizan Belgrade.  It has one of the greatest endings in basketball history.  It speaks for itself.  Enjoy!

The winners of the various national basketball leagues as well as teams picked using other criteria play in an annual 24-team competition called the Euroleague. The winner of the Euroleague is the continental champion of Europe.  The two-time reigning champion of the Euroleague is a team from Greece, Olympiacos Piraeus.

Olympiacos (pictured above) has been led the past few seasons by former NBA first round pick, Acie Law IV as well as Vassilis Spanoulis, and Kyle Hines.  The Euroleague has been increasing in popularity.  In fact, NBA 2K14 released by video game producer, 2K Sports, will include 14 Euroleague teams.  Basketball video game junkies will have the ability to develop greater familiarity with Euroleague players. The Americans who play abroad should start to feel less isolated.

The Americans who have played abroad have managed to develop nice lives for themselves.  In fact, Deron Williams played for Turkish club Besiktas during the 2011 lockout and was reportedly paid $200,000 per month for his time in the league.  Besiktas was the same club that Allen Iverson played for during his failed attempt to resurrect his professional career abroad.  One thing that should be clear from this blog post — European basketball is growing rapidly.  Don’t believe me, then you should believe the NBA General Managers as 14 European players were selected in the 2013 NBA draft.

If the NBA were smart, it would agree to have an annual game between the NBA champion and the Euroleague champion.  The winner of that game would have a better claim to the title of World Champion.  That is one game that I would definitely watch!