When you see big-name NBA stars talking about going overseas, it’s not about the salary. Even if you pay Kobe Bryant $2 million a month he will not make half his NBA salary next season.
It’s about the marketing, the branding. To quote Mars Blackmon:
It’s got to be the shoes.
Which is what superagent Aaron Goodwin — Kevin Durant’s agent, in case you were wondering — told ESPN’s TrueHoop. He says that an NBA player can make as much money overseas as he can in the NBA if it is packaged right.
“I have always seen overseas markets as huge opportunities for NBA players,” says Goodwin, “but to do it properly, where the players shared in the licensing and marketing. These opportunities did not exist. The players’ ability to openly explore overseas relationships was primarily through programs run by the NBA or endorsement relationships. Because of the lockout, there is a window for the players to explore these opportunities for themselves and expand their own brands.
“Let’s say a top NBA player went over to play for F.C. Barcelona, and a shoe company packaged together a nice jersey and some shoes. That unification of those brands, F.C. Barcelona, a top player, a top shoe company … all three parties have the potential to turn this into a good business.”
Here’s the little kink — Barcelona and the other elite European teams are not taking on guys like Durant and top NBA players. They are not taking on rentals.
Also, just my two cents: If someone could make as much money playing overseas as they could with salary and marketing in the NBA, somebody already would be doing that. Goodwin uses David Beckham as an example, what he set up with the Galaxy of the MLS. But Beckham was at the end of his career in Europe, he came here as he washed out of the elite leagues. That is not Durant, not by a long shot.
That said, some good NBA players can make good money— some can make very good money — overseas. There are options for players now there were not during the last lockout in terms of exhibitions and other ways to make money. Which has agents working to be creative. And fans cringing, because it just means a longer lockout.