NBA “Champions League” of veteran players to launch in 2016

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Golf’s “Champion Tour” of past-their-prime but well known and loved golfers is a financial success for the PGA — former players get to make a little more money and the PGA, which puts it on, rakes in some cash as well.

Will it work with former NBA players?

We will find out starting in 2016 when the Champions Tour (not run by the NBA) launches. Sam Amick of the USA Today has the details.

Behold The Champions League, a non-NBA affiliated venture where the league’s chairman and CEO, Carl George, is hoping to provide family-friendly and affordable entertainment during the NBA’s downtime. The vision, expected to be announced formally today, looks like this.

• Sixteen teams to begin competing in the summer of 2016, with a strong preference for players who have competed in the NBA during the last three years. According to George, the New York team is already fully formed and includes former NBA players Al Harrington, Rasheed Wallace and Maurice Ager. Teams in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Cleveland are up next, with the goal to employ approximately 250 players in all (170 on teams, others as player-coaches or in other roles). Each team would have two former NBA All-stars on the roster and a Hall of Famer in the front office. George said that 60 players have committed to this point, with many more “in the pipeline” while the subsequent teams are rolled out….

On average, George said, players would make approximately $200,000 per year (for 80 or 90 days of work) in their pay structure if they take part in both the season and the charity events. The strategy to attract the best-of-the-rest players is simple: provide a far better payday than the NBA’s Development League (top tier approximately $25,000) while offering a more-comfortable alternative to the overseas route that can certainly lead to more money but that, inevitably, requires a life-changing relocation.

It’s ambitious. How big a market there is in the summer for this level of hoops is certainly a question — the NBA’s Summer League has become a big draw and is shown on NBA TV, but that is just a couple of weeks and the audience trends toward young, die-hard fans. Will those fans watch this new league, one where they may know some of the players fairly well but don’t have the emotional attachment they do to an NBA team (or college team, for that matter)?

Obviously, star power would be a big part of this. Seeing Sheed scream “ball don’t lie” again would be fun, but it would take big names to draw really big sponsors/eyeballs. I’m not sure guys on the verge of retiring such as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett would go this route. It will also launch opposite the Olympics this summer, something hoops fans will follow.

Still, this has potential. Even if the financial dreams are lofty at the start, this could be a lot of fun to watch and follow through the slow parts of the NBA offseason.