Jordan brand showing up as part of NASCAR

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Michael Jordan is a basketball icon. The Jordan Brand is a business, it’s part of Nike, and like any brand it needs to expand its markets.

But to NASCAR? Yes. It may seem like an odd marriage — the sport with the most urban of fan base and the one with the most middle-American and rural — but right now the leading NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin sports the “jumpman” Jordan brand logo on his shoulder, back, belt and racing gloves.

And it started with a personal relationship. Hamlin — the current leader in the Sprint Cup Series standings — became a Bobcats season ticket holder a few years back (courtside, of course). And as he explained at NBA.com, he ran into Jordan at a game back in 2010.

I kind of walked by him at halftime whenever I went to a little bar area behind the court. So he was there one time, and he actually stopped me to congratulate me on my race the previous week. I don’t know if we had won or been in contention to win. I was like, ‘You watch NASCAR?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I watch it every single week.’ And he started asking me a couple questions like, ‘What about this guy? Was this is a good move when that guy did this?’ And I started thinking, ‘Wow. This guy actually knows what’s going on in our sport.’

So from that point on, we just started a texting conversation for the next few months, and basically I asked permission from him to represent the Jordan brand in NASCAR.

This is a deal that works out well for both sides, explains an article at Forbes.com.

This relationship between Hamlin and Jordan is very significant not only for the Jordan Brand, but for sports endorsements in general. First of all it shines light on the Jordan Brand as more than just a sneaker brand. Also, it could be a stretch, but the sponsorship might actually help mesh the fan base of more urban sports, like basketball, and racing, which would be a big leap racially. Only six black drivers have raced in NASCAR’s 64-year history coming into 2012. Darrell Wallace Jr. made a name for himself this summer as a Drive for Diversity Program participant and is vying to become just the second African American Sprint Cup driver since 1986. The 18-year-old Wallace is also helping with another category of fan demographics, as the median age of NASCAR fans, according to Nielsen, is currently 51.6.

One guy wearing the Jumpman logo is not going to make basketball a hot red state sport, nor is it going to mean every inner city youth is going to want to grow up to be Jeff Gordon. (Should anyone want to grow up and be Jeff Gordon?)

But it’s a step. A small but important step. You combine that with the Thunder drawing big in Oklahoma City and you start to see some little changes. Little seeds. That’s where it starts.

And, of course, Nike and Jordan will be there to capitalize on it and make money.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.