By: Barry Barnes/Hank Hurst, Founders
After 30 years of glorious success as the NBA commissioner, David Stern retired in mid-February and put the Association in the capable hands of Adam Silver, Now that Silver sets at the helm the NBA, the agenda has been set – rival the NFL.
“As much as we talk about international […] I still think there’s an enormous opportunity in the United States. […] I think this game should be a rival to football. In the United States, it’s the No. 1 participatory sport. We’ve all played it. I want to focus on the game. The business is going well, but this is a beautiful game.”
In 2013, the NFL revenues totaled just north of $9 billion. In order for the NBA to catch up to the NFL, they first have to pass Major League Baseball (around $7 billion). However, before the NBA can overtake MLB ($4 billion, 2013), they need a face, personality and presence.
What’s wrong with LeBron James (Miami Heat), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)?
And that’s the point.
The NBA has reached the point of saturation with its current stars. LeBron, Durant and Carmelo all are at, if not past, the mid-way point of their careers. And besides, other than James, Durant, Melo and a host of the NBA stars are a little boring.
Thankfully, each player is at the apex of their games, which means the NBA can market match ups, which in itself, will draw millions of fans to the tube and thousands to games.
Consequently, some teams whose expected to be good or contenders could flop. Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose was expected to help put his squad in the Eastern Conference race to propel them to the NBA Finals, but he tore his right meniscus on Nov. 22 against the Portland Trailblazers. Now, their matchups against the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are unattractive.
To some degree, the Golden State Warriors were expected to battle for seeds between three to six after their surprising run of the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Currently, the Warriors sit in the seventh spot of the Western Conference, battling to stay alive for a postseason spot as the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies are on their heels.
Mr. Silver, LockerReport.com will do you solid, and we won’t charge the Association – this time.
Similar to the 90’s when the NBA had characters like “Grandmama” (Larry Johnson), the “Lil Penny” doll (Anfernee Hardaway), the NBA should get into making certain players fictional characters, not wait on the shoes companies to be creative. Nike was onto something a few years ago when King James played the role of himself, his little and older brothers, and of course, “Pops.”
Allstate has something cool with L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul as he is playing himself and his lost twin brother Cliff, as they reunite. And Kia has Paul’s teammate Blake Griffin as a – well, whatever he is posing as it’s cool too.
Here is an idea: Create some talking basketballs as certain players, who have a legitimate chance of winning an NBA title, that dreams or brag of being the ball that goes in the basket for the big win. Start with an idea like that and build off it from there to make fans hunger for a series of commercials, which help draw them to the tube more.
Heck, convert players into action figures to capture the younger audience who don’t, or can’t, play basketball, but like toys.
Former NBA All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal was a giant action figure. Unlike the NFL, the NBA is highly predictable, and for the most part, the Association has always been. Other than relying on solid basketball play, and until the NBA can get creative with their product, a Shaq-type player and personality is sorely needed on the hardwood to rival against the king of the gridiron.
Why does the league need another Shaq? Well, here are five reasons why:
- The 8th Wonder Effect: Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Shaq is huge, really huge. So huge, in fact, that even during his rookie season, veterans who played the same position dwarfed in comparison when side by side. Shaq was originally selected the Orlando Magic as the number one overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, and since day one, opposing teams’ fans flood the gates as they wanted a ticket for games just to say they witnessed the “Shaq Attack” in person. Not only was he big, Shaq was quick and agile, while even leading a fast break or two during a game. Ticket sales rose around the NBA as a result.
- A Kid in a Man’s Body: It’s always been said that Shaq, unlike most human beings who have the genetics to reach 7 ft in height, seems very comfortable in his skin. He never shyed away from the cameras and always looked like a big kid out on the court. This was one of the many qualities that made Shaq marketable. Most NBA players wear a scowl continuously on and off the court. Unfortunately, the scowl, the countless tattoos and certain hip-hop hairstyles causes some difficulties as many fans are not able to connect to NBA players. When Shaq smiled from ear to ear, he appeared to be approachable as a gentle giant, yet still a dominating force.
- A Man of Many Talents: Basketball only catapulted Shaq’s love of hip-hop as he released five albums and teamed up with, then popular rap group, the Fuschnikins. Perhaps, his best release was his collaboration with the late-great Notorious B.I.G. on You Can’t Stop the Reign. Along with these albums were music videos, which were fun and energetic. It allowed him to cross various social and economic waters because every kid, and some adults, wanted to know what Shaq’s music was all about. He also appeared in 10 feature films, with the latest being Grown Ups 2 (2013) and The Lego Movie (2014). Shaq seemed to match his on the court presence with his off the court ventures and we all wanted more.
- New Star Helps All-Stars: When Shaq started his career during the 1992-1993 season, he joined a league which featured the likes of Micheal Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, Scotty Pippen, Larry Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp and Hakeem Olajuwon. The record of the team didn’t matter, you wanted to see Shaq vs all of them. This elevated the attention on the already established stars, although Jordan was in a stratosphere of his own.
- Equipment Failure: Who didn’t rent NBA Highlight VHS tapes (we are dating ourselves) from the local Erol’s Video Store and marveled at the fact that a man like Darryl Dawkins could dunk a basketball and rip the rim from the glass as it shattered everywhere. Shaq, not only did this once, he did it twice during his ROOKIE season. Now, Shaq didn’t rip the rim from the glass like the self-proclaim “Chocolate Thunder”. In the game against the New Jersey Nets, the original Superman of the NBA brought down the entire upper structure: backboard,rim, shot clock, it all came down. The shot clock smacked him on the head as he tried to get out of the way. The second incident came against the Pheonix Suns. It seemed as if the entire support structure of the goal, from the shot clock to the base, said, ‘ya’ll ain’t paying me enough for this’ as the hydraulics gave out and it slowly contracted to the floor after another Shaq Attack.
Many are talking about how deep the upcoming NBA Draft will be. So much so that teams, such as the Philidelphia 76ers, are doing whatever they can to tank the season and increase their chances of obtaining a top 4 spot in the draft. With potential lottery picks such as Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, losing teams are betting that one of these players can drastically alter their futures and picking one will translate into championships.
While that remains to be seen I think we all can agree on one thing. None of them are Durant. None of them are LeBron. And none of them are definitely NOT Shaq.
Your Welcome Mr. Silver