Universities to wear LeBron James gear under sponsorship deal: Miami, UK… and Ohio State

5 Comments

This should go over well.

LeBron James, in his continuing quest to become the most powerful brand in sports, has struck a deal for his Nike brand to sponsor three universities. Players at the University of Miami (the U) will wear the brand, which makes sense, given not only they share of the city with the Heat, but there is closeness with new head coach Jim Larranaga and LeBron’s business manager Maverick Carter. Kentucky will also sport the gear, which again makes sense given James’ closeness with John Calipari (a connection through World Wide Wes) and his frequent stops there during the season.

Oh, and Ohio State will also sport the gear.

…Yeah. From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

The University of Miami men’s basketball team will be sporting LeBron James-branded Nike gear this coming season thanks to a sponsorship deal with the Miami Heat superstar, two sources said Friday.

James will also be sponsoring Ohio State and Kentucky.

UM players were told the news by Coach Jim Larranaga on Thursday.

James’ publicist, Keith Estabrook, said he wouldn’t comment on the matter and directed all questions to Nike, which didn’t immediately return an email from the Sun Sentinel.

via LeBron James sponsors Miami Hurricanes: Heat star’s logo will be on men’s basketball team’s gear – South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com.

So The Ohio State University, the most popular university in Ohio, will wear the branded gear of the most hated man in the state, who abandoned his home-state Cavaliers, leading to the longest losing streak in NBA history.

This should go over extremely well.

But it’s a big deal for James’ brand as it attempts to reach the kind of heights it has targeted. That kind of exposure is phenomenal and only makes him more of an icon to the players coming up through those ranks. Still, it’ll be weird for Cavaliers fans in Columbus to realize they’re cheering on young men wearing the mark of the man they so despise.

It’s been a year since The Decision and James is still finding ways to cause outrage in Ohio.

Update:Turns out OSU has had gear which was tied to James since 2007, but this marks the first official branding of their gear under LeBron’s specific brand. HT: NorthCoastKid on Twitter.

Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis still not talking off court

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Leave a comment

The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek
1 Comment

Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

Harry How/Getty Images
1 Comment

Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

image

So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.