The NBA Winners Never Stopped Shooting

We’ve all read the stories about how long it took Major League Baseball to recover fully (and more) from its strike of 1994; if all goes according to plan and players and owners ratify the agreement reached Saturday morning, the National Basketball Association is about to find out just how much damage was done by the lockout of 2011.

Most analyses claim the owners won. “The owners say they are happy about their new labor contract with the players, which makes sense because the owners basically took the players to the dry cleaners and forced them to pay for extra starch,” quips Mark Purdy in the San Jose Mercury News.

Many scribes, all along, have pointed out that fans are the biggest losers. There may be some truth to that, although there was plenty of evidence of professed indifference in comments around town and cyberspace. One thing for certain, however, is that a few players and brands actually came out of the labor action on the winning side.



Kerem Ozkan and Dan Hirschhorn have a piece in Ad Age tracking the players and brands whose “efforts helped them maintain brand position while their biggest stage was dark.”

Take-Two Interactive’s NBA 2K12 -- which features great teams of the past -- seems like a prescient stroke of marketing genius, although the company is not saying one way or another if it anticipated the lockout. The Phoenix Suns’ Grant Hill enhanced his reputation as a businessman, elder statesman and foodie. And young Kevin Durant seemed to be everywhere.

“Throughout [the lockout], he maintained his image as a humble yet hip dude who's just obsessed with hooping, solidifying his role as the league's most likable superstar,” Ozkan and Hirschhorn write.

Cleveland Cavaliers’ point guard Baron Davis, meanwhile, is spearheading a movie endearingly titled "American Schlub" that recently was written up in the Wall Street Journal. It “takes aim at the poor sartorial standards of the American male,” John Letzing told us.

Yesterday’s Journal reported that the recently retired 7-foot, 6-inch Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, a native of Shanghai, is getting into the California wine business. His Yao Family Wines is exclusively targeting a Chinese palate that’s thirsty for more vino -– sales doubled between 2005 and 2009 -- although French wines currently dominate the market.

Displaying some of the acumen for hype he picked up in the U.S. before injuries shortened his career, Yao has no trouble justifying the 1,775 yuan ($289) a bottle price of the Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon he’ll be selling.

"California represents vacation, casual [living], sunshine -- everything related to a good quality of life," Yao tells Jason Chow.

Finally, what’s not to like about the spot for [Nike’s] Jordan Brand that features Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony who, the YouTube promo line says, “won't stop balling. Nobody can take away your love of the game. That's yours to keep.”

With music set to a extremely mellow beat, the three stars participate in pick-up games around the world.

“Lockout shmockout; basketball is bigger than the NBA,” crowedAdweek’s Emma Bazilian in an “Ad of the Day” write-up earlier this month. “It’s not the league that defines the game, it’s the people -- players, fans, coaches, friends. And if you can ignore the fact that a corporate sponsor is paying a bunch of already overpaid sports stars to remind us that basketball isn’t a corporate affair, it’s not such a bad message.”

And lest you think that it’s pure marketing hooey that an NBA player would ever get involved in a pickup game with a bunch of old farts in a bandbox gym somewhere, read Corey Kilgannon’s City Room column in the New York Times this morning.

“40 Years on the Court, and It’s Not Even Halftime” tells the story of a pick-up game in Greenwich Village where my buddy Robert Gold (who we wrote about here) and his cohorts have traded flying elbows since the days when Phil Jackson was the sixth man for the Knicks and would come down and join the game when he was in town.

While I may not believe that these guys actually risk their multimillion-dollar limbs in venues such as the Flamingo Senior Rec Center and the Jewish Under 40 League when the cameras aren’t rolling, we can at least assume that Wade, Paul and Anthony are actually present in the moment and not body doubles à la J Lo/Fiat, right?



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