As fears mount that the NBA lockout could drag out longer than any of us want (it already has, but that’s another story), there has been talk of NBA players on exhibition tours, particularly through places like China. Basically a Nike-fueled agent’s dream where NBA players put on a show, sell some shoes and everyone makes a bunch of money. Then the players pretend they did it just for the union.
But why just China? Why not here in the United States?
That’s the dream of Fred Smith in Los Angeles, the No. 2 man at the Drew League who is trying to convince players they can build something of their own. The idea is to start with the Drew vs. Goodman League showdown game — which has some issues of its own — and grow it from there. Sam Amick at Sports Illustrated tells his story.
“I try to explain to these players, ‘Why do you think … that ESPN, Fox, TNT — for the most part — haven’t been knocking down your door to talk to you, haven’t been looking to do interviews with you? Because they’re partners with the NBA. They’re management. You’re labor. They’re not going to come talk to you. You’re on your own,’ ” said Smith, who was on the production team for CBS’ NBA telecasts in the 1980s and ’90s, was a field producer for NBA Entertainment in the ’90s and frequently freelances with ESPN now.
“And I’m telling them, ‘You have a chance to take control of your life a little bit here.’ We’re not going to replace the NBA. … But I’m showing them how if you get on board this thing now, and get your fans on board, you could very easily create a second revenue stream for yourself in the summer, if not beyond.”
Smith is trying to get guys to invest in the game and build from there. Smith is also the guy that owns TheBasketballChannel.net, where the Drew-Goodman will be live streamed and you can watch for just $4.95.
What he needs to make this all work is some NBA guys to get on board — he’s tried to pitch DeMar DeRozan, Craig Smith and Nick Young to put up $3,000 each. After that, he could use some big-time investors. Like the kind of shoe company money that would make a China tour possible (if China lets it happen). Good luck. That is a big hurdle to clear, unless he convinces some players to really jump in publically.