Happy Opening Day, everyone. The League is back, rejoice. Sure, the tipoff doubleheader is good, but I'm really looking forward to tomorrow night, when there's a full slate and I can sit back and rock the League Pass in force. And, man, I just checked the schedule - we've got Mavs-Spurs, Cavs-Spurs, Clippers-Suns among others this week. Let's get it on.
OK, I'm sure you have a bit of season preview overload at this point, so let's take an alternative look at things.
20 MOST INFLUENTIAL
The Sports Business Journal (subscription) did its own NBA preview last week, looking at things from a business perspective.
Here's their rating of the 20 Most Influential People in the NBA:
1. NBA Commissioner David Stern
2. ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer
3. NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver
4. NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter
5. Heat Owner and NBA Board of Governors Chair Micky "Stay white, Miami!" Arison
6. Suns Chair & CEO and USA Basketball Managing Dir Jerry Colangelo
7. Turner Sports President David Levy
8. NBA President of League & Basketball Operations Joel Litvin
9. Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban
10. NBA President of Global Marketing Partnerships & International Business Operations Heidi Ueberroth
11. Nike Chair Phil Knight
12. Anheuser-Busch VP/Global Media & Sports Marketing Tony Ponturo
13. Lakers Owner Jerry Buss
14. adidas Chair & CEO Herbert Hainer
15. Coca-Cola VP/Sports Marketing Bea Perez
16. WMG Management President Arn Tellem
17. FSN COO Randy Freer
18. Cavaliers F LeBron James
19. Rockets C Yao Ming
20. Reebok Senior Dir of Grassroots Basketball Sonny Vaccaro
(No, Henry, I have no idea how they missed William Wesley, either!)
Other random business-related notes from SBJ:
- They did a business-oriented "Scout's Take" kind of thing, where they had anonymous quotes from execs - there was a sentiment, similar to the one that Cuban has voiced, that perhaps too much is being focused on the international markets, when the money is not fully there. As Cuban noted, an increase of "just" 500,000 American viewers to TNT/ESPN broadcasts would provide a huge ratings boost that would turn the league into a huge success story.
- On TV, expect to see a lot more of the "Cable Cam" above the court. NBA TV will be broadcasting a game entirely using those cameras. In general, it'll be a big TV year because the contracts will be up after the 2007-08 season, so negotiations will begin in earnest sometime this season.
- Another random note that was brought up was how the NBA is really struggling all at once in West Coast markets - Seattle, Portland, Sacramento - which have been longtime strongholds.
Some of my favorite interviews before the season opener.
LeBron on The Daily Show (Comedy Central - Click on "Monday, 10/30, Pt. 3")
- JON: "I don't mean to offend you, but are you an alien creature? Are you a being from another land? What can stop you, is it kryptonite or some sort of caramel-like popcorn?"
LEBRON: "I'm not sure. At this point, I don't think anyone can stop me right now."
Charles, Kenny & Ernie (Slam Online)
- After being asked if when he played, he was the guy that went through and chose the game balls…
KENNY: “Make sure you write this correctly, but yes, I was the ball tester.”
CHARLES: “I knew it! You coming out tonight? This is the perfect place, because it’ll be in every newspaper tomorrow. We’re still gonna love you.”
KG (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
- "Getting knocked off, knocking at the door, no one answering -- those things are not only humbling, but they put a different kind of fire in you. Every time you come up short, it's like seeing that girl in school every day that you're sweet on.
"It's like, she ain't ever said two words to you but all of a sudden she smiles at you. That turns into a 'hi.' A 'hi' turns into a walk down the hall. That turns into sitting with her at lunch. And then when you get that phone number, 'OK, cool!' That turns into a big opportunity.
"When you get to the Western Conference finals, you feel like you've got the phone number. And then you lose the phone number. And she moves away to a different school."
"You have no way of getting in contact with her and you feel like you're moving backwards now. You don't know any of her friends. But you know what school she's going to, so you can go up there, sit in the parking lot and look really stalk-ish."
- The NBA is using a new ball this year, and you've been a pretty vocal critic.
The ball is terrible. It's something we'll just have to get used to. Playing with the new ball is like going to a gentlemen's club, seeing an exotic dancer and then going home and playing with a plastic blow-up doll. It's bad. A lot of these people are trying to make decisions for the NBA. It's just getting too corporate. There are too many rules that don't really make sense--for example, about our shorts being too long. You go to a Foot Locker--that's what all the kids are buying, the long shorts. Kids ain't buying the short John Stockton shorts.
Flea! (LA Times)
- Question: Is it realistic to believe that short shorts will return?
I hope they do. I think it would be a very bold statement and a really cool thing. I prefer the short-shorts look. I think it's a manly look. (He wrote this in his blog last year: "I am waiting for some bold player to muster the gumption to just quit fooling with the dated oversized-shorts look and bust out the wee little shorts of yesteryear.")
Is it a thrill for you to perform in NBA arenas?
Totally. I love it. I always go creep around the locker rooms and stuff. I've been known to doctor the chalkboards. I think it was in New Jersey, when Derrick Coleman was playing, there were all these Xs and O's up there and other messages, and I wrote, "Derrick, hog the ball, don't play defense." Just silly stuff.
Jerry Buss (LA Times)
- I think we were a lot closer to it than people realized last year, just that last nine seconds [in Game 6 against Phoenix]. We would have won that series and we would have played the Clippers after that, who the last game of the year you probably remember, we dominated.
GQ AND ESQUIRE
Don't know if you saw them, but GQ and Esquire have fairly substantial NBA-related previews (GQ's was actually a "Sports Issue" with NBA content included) this month. I think I preferred Esquire's... not just b/c their cover photo was of Scarlett "Sexiest Woman Alive" Johansson instead of a shirtless Dwyane Wade. Here's a scouting report:
They had a very good oral history piece by Peter Richmond, looking back to the fateful NBA day of Nov. 7, 1991, when Magic announced he was HIV-positive. He had quotes from Magic, his then-agent Lon Rosen, Jerry Buss, Jerry West, Jim Brown and more. It's so jarring to think back to that day when, let's face it, we all thought Magic would soon be dead, considering what an afterthought it seems to be in his life today.
Here are a few quotes to that end:
- LON ROSEN: I was with him in the doctor's office when they told him. The doctor said, "You're going to die." It was the most surreal experience of my life. They gave him a death sentence: You have HIV and you can't play basketball anymore.
JACK HALEY: It was one of the most unbelievable things I've ever seen. Magic walked in and stood there and told us he'd contracted the AIDS virus. All these grown men were crying and upset and freaking out. Magic stands there the entire time, his voice never cracks, he has this smile on his face. He is stronger than anyone I've ever seen.
MAGIC: For the first five years, I didn't know what was going to happen. I was hoping the medicine was going to work, but you just don't know. In those years, it was always, "You OK? You OK? You OK?" everywhere I went. Now I don't get that. Now I get "You're doing great in business." No one checks anymore.
That said, I'd have to say the D-Wade cover story left me disappointed. It was short and didn't really break any new ground. Here's an excerpt.
Also, MAJOR points off to the copy-editing department. They did a photo portfolio on the 16 coolest heroes in sport. There was a nice 2-page shot of Worthy, Magic and Kareem, but they were listed as "The '86 Lakers"! Could have been '85, could have been '87, but not '86 - wouldn't be so egregious if the '86 Celtics weren't considered one of the greatest teams ever!
The meat on the bones were Tom Chiarella's fun piece, "The Pathology of Gilbert Arenas" and the prolific Paul Shirley weighing in with a solid "Player's Notes" effort.
Sidebars included a graphic look at the new ball and a list of 15 Things That Make Us Happy About the New NBA Season. Included was: "7. Portland rookie Sergio 'Spanish Chocolate' Rodriguez: the best nickname since Darrell 'Dr. Dunkenstein' Griffith".
Extra credit for Scarlett content, and I'd have to say Esquire was the winner.
Is there any question that Gilbert Arenas was the media's NBA MVP of the offseason? You had the Esquire piece linked above and the absolute must-read two-part series from Mike Wise in the Washington Post (Part I, Part II). The Post's D.C. Sports Bog has also weighed in with some quality Gilbertology tidbits, and don't forget Zero2Hero himself, blogging for NBA.com.
Kudos also to the Rocky Mountain News for their four-part Carmelo series.
Lest we forget, Golden State of Mind also has a look at new signature shoes for stars around the league for '06-07: