Evan Turner gets shoe deal with Chinese shoe company Li Ning

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Thumbnail image for Eturner_summer.jpgWalk into Foot Locker to pick up some shoes and Li Ning isn’t there among the Nikes and Adidas. But the company is almost as big.

Li Ning is the biggest China-based shoe and athletic apparel company, a power player in a booming market. They had $1.2 billion in sales last year, which is no Nike but is bigger than known American brands such as Under Armour. Li Ning wants to get into the competitive American market.

To that end they have celebrity endorsers, like Shaquille O’Neal and Baron Davis. Both big names, but also both guys closer to the end of their careers than the start, not guys who move a lot of product.

Evan Turner could change that.

Turner, the No. 2 overall pick of the Philadelphia 76ers, has signed a deal with Li Ning, according to CNBC’s sports business reporter Darren Rovell. This is the first time the company has signed a young player on the rise.

Turner will wear Li-Ning for his rookie season and will immediately appear in the company’s marketing. He will have his own signature shoe and apparel, which will be available globally, in his second year with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Li-Ning established a base for its US business in Portland, Ore., where it also has its flagship store. In order for the deal to really work out, Turner obviously has to be a star and the Li-Ning brand has to gain traction with consumers and retailers.

What makes this even more intriguing is that Turner’s agent is David Falk, who of course is responsible for establishing the greatest marketing deal of all time, Michael Jordan, Nike and the Air Jordan franchise.

It’s a bit of a risk by both sides. But if Turner takes off, Li Ning gets a boost and everybody wins. Well, except Nike, but they have won plenty.

Jeopardy uses “crying Jordan” meme for question

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You know a meme has jumped the shark when it appears on Jeopardy. (Also, the phrase “jump the shark” has jumped the shark.)

The “crying Jordan” meme reached that level this week when Alex Trebek asked a question about it.

This in no way means we should stop using the crying Jordan meme — even if it bothers MJ himself, and it does — because it’s still funny.

Charles Barkley on new schedule: “These poor babies can’t play back-to-back games”

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Training camp hasn’t even opened yet, but Charles Barkley is already in midseason “get off my lawn” form.

Barkley — the man who can’t stand jump shooting teams, or analytics, or LeBron James asking for better players, or your newfangled technology — went off on another tedious rant at an SMU event Wednesday, this time about the NBA’s decision to start the season a little earlier and have fewer back-to-backs and eliminate four-games-in-five-nights.

Ugh. Like a lot of former players — and a lot of non-athletes, for that matter — Barkley is convinced his peak as a player coincided with the greatest era of basketball ever. Things were never better than the way they did it in his day.

Which means facts — like pointing to the studies that show players both are less likely to be injured and play better and more efficiently when rested — don’t matter. Barkley did it, so players now should have to do it. Who cares if all these packed in games can shorten their careers?

Then again, maybe a few days off would have helped Barkley in the second half of his career.

B.J. Armstrong, former Jordan-era Bull turned agent, told me last year that if teams and players knew in his day what they know now about rest and injury, you would have seen stars like MJ rest. Over time we learn more information, and the smart people and organizations adjust.

Barkley will make far more headlines over the course of the season, he gets paid to be brash, say whatever pops into head, and be generally draw attention to himself. It makes him entertaining, and that’s what Inside the NBA is about. But I will defer to Steve Kerr’s comments from last playoffs on all these old “get off my lawn” players.

“The game gets worse as time goes on. Players are less talented than they used to be. The guys in the 50s would’ve destroyed everybody. It’s weird how human evolution goes in reverse in sports. Players get weaker, smaller, less skilled. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”

For a couple grand, Warriors fans can have Larry O’Brien Trophy visit their suite

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There’s so much money floating around the Bay Area right now thanks to another tech boom, this price almost seems low.

If you have a suite for the Golden State Warriors home games this season — and those are pretty much sold out, the Warriors draw big from the Silicon Valley crowd — you can have the NBA championship Larry O’Brien Trophy visit your suite. All for just a couple grand. From Gilbert Lee, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The best part is it includes champagne… do you get to spray each other with it as you hold up the trophy? Now that would be perfect (goggles included, of course).

Have an issue with this? Why? To the victor goes the spoils. The Warriors may be able to sell this package for years.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.