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Category archive for: Opinion

Deron Williams: Spin Control

Deron Williams Cover Photo - Brooklyn Nets
The Deron Williams mini media machine puts out cover photos such as this.

The Deron Williams legacy will not be solely dictated by the regular media as the Brooklyn Nets star hopes to capitalize on his brand by providing his own measures of control via owned digital properties.

The proliferation of social media in sports, from the players to reporters who were once bound to editorial desks, has allowed a new wave of journalism to flourish.  For good and bad, one no longer has to rely exclusively on credentials to obtain the latest story coming out of the sporting world.  News can be broken by anyone with a smartphone or anyone with access to the web, and the ensuing story could be found documented on  your local newspaper or any given sports blog regardless of size.

It’s no wonder, then, that certain NBA players with an eye toward marketing and branding have turned to consulting firms to try and get some ownership of their own story in the digital and/or social space.

Deron Williams even has his own team of beat reporters, with credentialed media access to home games, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

 Their mission? Spread the gospel of D-Will on his website, DeronWilliams.com.

The proliferation of social media, as well as sports blogs, has had a seismic effect on brand perception as it relates to players’ character, morals, and story—sports is no longer just about the box score and the individual stats.  For better or worse, the heightened levels of exposure allotted to today’s superstars have created a double-edged sword of fame and unreasonable expectations.

With higher visibility comes the potential of lucrative endorsements, especially for the better known superstars like Deron Williams.   Being able to contribute your own angle via content marketing on owned media properties like deronwilliams.com gives one a foot in the door over how the story is phrased in the commercial space.

DeronWilliams.com is cutting edge. Operated by a company called Athlete Interactive, the site has Williams-centric game stories, Williams-centric features and Williams-centric photo galleries. The site’s editors shoehorn “Williams” or “D-Will” into roughly 90% of their headlines, which, to be fair, is sort of the point.

Today’s NBA superstars are more than just basketball players, at least the smart ones.  They seek out entrepreneurial opportunities even before they reach professional ranks.  Leaving one’s presence to one’s own devices could result in catastrophe as we have noted time and again on Twitter.  PR nightmares that tarnish the brand and the potential for dollars.

It’s only natural that players like Deron Williams would turn to professionals for aid in how to best represent themselves in the public space.  The Twittersphere may demand organic conversation from the player, but in the end such interaction doesn’t necessarily translate into bigger dividends (the end-all for today’s stars).  Just ask Kobe Bryant who doesn’t have a Twitter account, but does keep in touch with his fans via his Facebook page which is seemingly controlled, analyzed and filtered by someone other than the Black Mamba.

Deron Williams and Kobe Bryant are paving the way for future entrepreneurs with the ability to ball on the court by providing a model of professionalism where only emotional reaction existed.

In Search of the Perfect Curve, A Hat Story

Brooklyn Dodgers Hat, Curved Bill
Curvy hat.

The very first hat I ever owned (that wasn’t given to me) was an Atlanta Braves baseball cap.

I distinctly remember struggling to find the best tips and tricks for creating the perfect curve.  Prior to Google, one had to ask around or merely observe and mimic to the best of your abilities.  It wasn’t long before someone shared with me the mystifying secrets of using a rubberband to create the perfect curvature for your hat.

I tried this method out for a few nights when I first learned it.  How cool was it that a simple rubber band could form the curve I needed while I slept?  It blew my mind.  The method, however, caused a tighter curve that was beyond my liking.

I had to modify and improvise my own hat-shaping methodology.  For an hour or two each day, I would let my inanimate employees get to work.  The remainder of the time I would take care of the work by occasionally shaping the curve with my hands.

As time went on, the hat molded to my fastidious head, eventually settling into a perfect fit.  My hats had better curves than the curviest model you ever did see (except for Sofia Vergara…those are pretty strong curves).

As is often the case with most people, I grew up and stopped using hats.  It wasn’t a decision I consciously made, I just didn’t spend as much time worrying about what was on my head as much as I cared about what was going in my head during my college years.

Fast-forward a few years after graduating from college.

I’m not the type to catch on quick to things that personally affect me.  There are things in my life that I’ve always accepted as just being factual without questioning why they happen.  I’ve lived all my life sneezing like crazy and thinking I was developing a cold.  I would pat myself on the back when a cold wouldn’t take over, attributing it to my stronger-than-thou immune system.  Never once did it occur to me that I may possibly have allergies.  Allergies didn’t exist in my family growing up.   Allergies were things that other kids with weaker immune systems had.  They were a myth as far as I was concerned… an evil myth blown way out of proportion to scare off kids from eating peanuts.  Delicious peanuts.

The stubbornness of ignorance also affected my view of one of the most basic aspects of living:  the sun.  Millions of times I’ve walked out of my house only to be greeted by the punishing rays of the sun.  I would squint in response until the photons of pain would subside into something more bearable.  At least that’s what I used to do.

The reality that I could arm myself with sunglasses or a hat begin to dawn on me (by dawning I really mean that my girlfriend bestowed the clarity of common sense upon me), and so began the journey of finding a new hat that would serve as shield against the wicked sun.

This search led me to a bizarre mirror of truth as it applies to fashion:  what used to be cool growing up is now the inverse of the very concept.

Louis 14's Skinny Jeans.
Louis 14’s “Skinny Jeans.”

Jeans for boys are tighter now than at any given point in human history (except for maybe when those aristocrat dudes from back in the day would wear leggings—I still call it a toss-up).  Everyone nowadays sports flat-billed hats with factory golden stickers all over them.  What’s with leaving the stickers on?  Heck, even the snap-back models are cool now (I blame the hipsters).

With the conflict of cool fresh in my head, I reluctantly entered into a hat store, knowing fully well that I’d be judged by the store clerk.  Having spotted a hat from afar, one of the old school curvy models, I proceeded to buy it—the girl at the counter indirectly advised against it, making sure I knew that “only tourists” buy those type hats now.

I stuck to my guns, no matter how old school it felt, and purchased a new Dodgers cap.

Later that night, at the theater, I spotted another dude with a curvy hat.  I thought that perhaps at some point he’d see me wearing my hat, and we’d nod at each other in slow motion, like manly men acknowledging each other’s ability to keep it real in a world of rapidly changing hipsterism.

It never happened but I’m sure there are others like us and someday we’ll be in the majority again.

What about you?  Do you prefer flat-billed hats or curvy hats?

Atlanta Braves Hat
Flat-billed Braves Hat. Not good for my cabeza.

 

 

I’m Not Going To Haggle With That

LA Clippers visiting Great Wall of China
LA Clippers visiting Great Wall of China for Preseason Games vs. the Heat.

It’s been less than a year, but it feels like an eternity since Blake Griffin last pulverized the humanity out of some poor soul who mistakenly believed that mere mortals could stop aerial bulldozers.

With the start of training camp right around the corner, life once again re-surges like a dry savanna being watered for the first time. The fire and curiosity that can only be aroused by a no-look lob from Chris Paul arduously adorns the glow of my very being.

Gone are the days when the dreaded malady and stench of Vinnie Del Negro paramount the youth and inexperience of a budding Clippers squad. Though I fear that at some point he will tilt the winds of change against the mast of progress, it shall be minimized by the resolute character of an expanded and experienced bench.

We’re deep…deep as the oceans of adversity we traverse.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin’s contributions toward changing the culture and perception of a once plagued franchise cannot be understated. Without the advantage of training camp and a season full of injuries, the squad’s efforts still resulted in the most successful season in Clippers history.

With Paul, Griffin, Butler, Jordan and Billups all returning to the team for the 2012-13 season, the starting lineup remains in tact, now with the benefit of the chemistry.

To augment an already solid core, the Clippers made moves during the off-season and were able to land Jamal CrawfordLamar OdomGrant Hill(drinks Sprite), Ronnie Turiaf (le Ronnie to you, monsieur) and most recently, Matt Barnes whose generous tattoo count instantly augments the Clippers’ street cred and cool factor.

To some, the list of characters on the bench sound like a who’s who list of “washed up” players. To me, they’re the backbone of a Western Conference Finals team. With Eric Bledsoe‘s tenacity leading the second string’s efforts, I expect a voracious and concerted effort by Lamar Odom—a man in dire need of re-focusing and resuscitating his career after seemingly having checked out in Dallas, and Grant Hill—an aging wonder who still manages to affect the outcome of games with the shrewdness that only experience, and drinking lots of Sprite, can bring to the table.

So here’s to the upcoming season! May it be one of joy, diligence, lobs and an infinite number of “settle down, Mike Smith”s.

This small piece was originally written in the spur of the moment, for the new and revamped ClipsNation.com blog over at SBNation sans images; a few small edits were made for this version.

Nike Lebron X: A New Standard in High End Basketball Shoes

New Nike Lebron X
The Lebron X: a new standard in high-end basketball shoes.

The allure of having the newest, most expensive, basketball sneakers on the playground is an addiction that can possibly only be understood by women who buy ultra expensive handbags.

Buying handbags, of course, doesn’t make sense to me.  Most of the time I consider them ugly and a complete waste of money that could be carried inside of a much better, lesser expensive handbag.  But what we don’t get is the lack of feel-good feelings those handbags produce for their owners.  Though we try to understand, the emotional rewards of rocking a Fendi (or a more expensive, uglier handbag whose brand I don’t know) supersede our most common logic.

Basketball shoes, on the other hand, well, that’s a luxury I understand.  A luxury whose sustainability, to this day, confounds me:  how was it possible that all of the kids in my childhood could always show up rocking the newest Jordans, when I knew for a fact that most of their families struggled paycheck to paycheck? 

The obsession with cool is an incredible driving force, especially for the youth.  Companies capitalize on this sentiment all the time, especially the sneaker industry.

Nike and the Jordan brand have particularly been excellent at exacting exorbitant amounts of dollars from the pockets of urban youth who somehow continue to come up with the funds shoe in and shoe out.

The newest iteration of cool is the Nike Lebron X brand of shoes coming in at a whopping $315 per pair.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Nike is merely adjusting its price points to reflect increased costs of material, labor and transportation.

Nike, based in Beaverton, Ore., says it is passing along price increases because many of key materials, such as cotton, have risen in price over the past 18 months. Prices did moderate somewhat in the past quarter.

Nike also faces rising labor costs in China, where it manufactures a third of its products.

The economics of production notwithstanding, $315 is a ridiculously excessive price point for goods that are still manufactured at an incredibly low cost.  There is no justifiable reason why any pair of shoes should amount to levels approaching poverty line income—not even because of its highly touted new technology which seeks to justify it:

The coming $315 LeBron X Nike Plus, due in the fall, is expected to come embedded with motion sensors that can measure how high players jump.

When did it become a necessity for anyone to sport a shoe that seeks to confirm the reality that one cannot dunk?  When I was a kid we would get that feedback for free, if not from the reality of gravity, then from our friends who would gladly dish it out with a side of trash talk.

Nike will of course succeed in leveraging the sentiment of cool backed by the superstar power of Lebron James.  Kids, after all, aren’t looking at shoes just for fashion, at least I don’t think so.  A good pair of shoes always came with the inherent promise of greatness, and in that sense, the sneakers superstars wear come with a side of hope which I guess Nikes has found how to measure in economic terms.

Mark Cuban Schools Skip Bayless

ESPN’s most pompous and leading talkinghead, Skip Bayless, was put in his rightful amateur place by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on ESPN’s own “First Take.”

Cuban, an outspoken entrepreneur, has often critiqued anyone he deems worthy freely and intelligently.  The twittersphere rejoiced upon learning of the utter destruction that had taken place.

Bayless, the Rush Limbaugh of sports talk, has a history of making incendiary and asinine comments bordering on delusion, often with the intent of driving up ratings and interaction/dissent amongst viewers.

The video is below for your viewing pleasure, as well as a couple of my personal favorites quotes from this exchange.

-That is the most ridiculous thing any sports writer has ever said.

-If you were smart you’d have substance.

-This is a Skip Bayless special, Lebron lost last year because he was paying attention to Skip Bayless.

Count this one for Mark Cuban…and the foul!

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