You get the feeling Nike is the puppet master on this one, pulling all the strings…
Monday the Miami Heat signed a sponsorship agreement with Chinese beer company Tsingtao, and that may be the first step to a preseason tour of China for the Heat next season, reports the Sun Sentinel (via SLAM).
“We’re not in control of that, the NBA is. But we have every reason to believe that we are high on the list of teams that they’ll be inviting over to China, if not next year certainly soon,” said Eric Woolworth, Heat president of business operations. “I believe it’s in the pipeline.”
NBA players do tours of Nike every summer, doing clinics and the like, to promote their shoe brand — Kobe Bryant has been going on behalf of Nike for years. It should be noted that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all are part of the Nike shoe family.
But this is bigger than just shoes — David Stern is all about globalization of the game and wants to tap into the massive Chinese market. Sending a marquee team like the Heat makes some sense from a marketing perspective. Which often around the NBA is the only perspective that matters.
You know Kobe Bryant and other stars have talked about a “barnstorming” tour of China, to make some money and promote their brands if the lockout drags into the season. You also know there are obstacles, because this is China.
But something is coming together, Kevin Love told Sports Illustrated.
Oh, it’s very real. I can’t put the specifics out there. But it’s a fair amount of games in China for a very substantial amount of money. That’s all I can tell you right now.
The players and union will pump up that “very substantial” part as proof that there are other ways for their players to make money during the lockout. At least their star players. (Wow, with that last sentence I felt like I channeled David Stern, and it scared me a little.)
There will need to be concessions — the Chinese Basketball Association (an arm of the Chinese government) will only approve this if there is a way it helps improve the Chinese basketball program. Which means there will need to be Chinese players on the teams, clinics and more. It has to be in China’s interest, not just Nike’s.
But it sounds like they are working something out, and if they go you can bet a lot of the NBA’s biggest stars will be on board.
We were telling you about some potential barnstorming tours of China by NBA players if the lockout extends into the next season, the brainchild of agents trying to grow the brand of their clients when there are no games.
We also told you, it’s not that simple. There’s the whole Chinese Government thing, insurance and a host of other logistical challenges.
That was enough to have Amar’e Stoudemire, rumored to be part of the tours, not sounding so interested, according to Adam Zagoria of Sportsnet New York.
“I doubt it happens,” the source said. “Much too complicated. We will see if it’s real and make sense. Hopefully, the owners and players’ association will come to an agreement sooner than later.”
There are a lot of moving parts to pull together to make this happen. And in an ideal world any work the agents put in would be blown up by the players and owners reaching a deal that allows the full NBA season to go on as planned. Just not convinced we live in an ideal world.