These Narratives are Disrupting Basketball

No matter how the games go, these are the stories the league will be talking up all season

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The NBA season is underway, and there is a great amount of interest in the league. There are numerous storylines on a wide-open championship race, but there’s even more news off the court. More than ever now, players are utilizing their power in entrepreneurship. 

Brand-new shoe deals used to be the norm, but players are now establishing their own media platforms and cultivating their own brands. With a few players building their own investment portfolios, the NBA has created its own business world with numerous financial opportunities. Here are the five biggest business storylines in the NBA right now.

1. The NBA and China

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet about the Hong Kong protests embroiled the NBA in controversy. The NBA has a deep relationship with China. Last season, the league reached 800 million total viewers in China. [moved this sentence] Now, the amount of layers to the drama is noticeable. With Chinese companies including Tencent, Chinese state-run television network CCTV and Vivo suspending their partnerships with the NBA, there is pressure on the league from all angles. 

There have even been talks of the league’s salary cap being influenced by the potential financial losses that could come as a result of Morey’s tweet. The situation has also led to various NBA personalities, including Steve Kerr, James Harden and LeBron James to weigh in, and their comments have been heavily analyzed and criticized. Numerous players have deals with Chinese brands as well. Only time will tell how the league’s relationship with China shakes out and the ripple effects that come from this incident. 

2. Spencer Dinwiddie Makes Waves

When it comes to off-the-court brands, Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie has already approached his affairs in a way that no NBA player ever has. He developed his own independent shoe, K8iros, with Project Dream, an organization that collaborates with athletes and celebrities to create shoes and other gear.

Recently, Dinwiddie took his entrepreneurship to another level. He’s converting his recently signed three-year contract extension into a digital token. Through this process, Dinwiddie will be able to receive an upfront lump-sum payment from investors that buy shares of his contract. Dinwiddie would then be able to invest that sum soon after. He can also provide a potential win for investors if he succeeds on the court, opts out of his contract after two years and negotiates a new contract with a higher annual value.

Two weeks later, the NBA announced that Dinwiddie’s potential deal violated the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. In response, Dinwiddie stated that his deal doesn’t violate the CBA and that he is ready to go forward with his financial endeavor without the NBA’s stamp of approval. This could be a landmark case study for the future of business and contracts in sports.

3. Zion Williamson Becomes The Main Attraction

According to Basketball Reference, the New Orleans Pelicans have never finished higher than 21st in home attendance since the 2008-2009 season. Just six months ago, the Pelicans were in a tough spot. Faced with star Anthony Davis wanting out, New Orleans looked like a franchise headed for a long stretch in the cellar of the NBA. Enter the rookie phenom Zion Williamson. 

The Pelicans’ future looks bright after the selection of the number one overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Williamson, paired with star Jrue Holiday, free agent signing J.J. Redick and former Lakers Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart has a bright future.

Williamson has lived up to the hype. The forward has put up a few 20-point games in the preseason and has stunned crowds with his unique combination of strength and athleticism. StubHub has the Pelicans ranked ninth in the top 10 of in-demand NBA teams this season. Expect Williamson not only to draw crowds at home, but also be a main attraction on the road. Even though he is out for the early part of this season after knee surgery, expect Zion to draw crowds at home, but also be a main attraction on the road.

If Williamson can resuscitate a franchise that has been in the doldrums, he will be placed on par with LeBron James. James brought the Cleveland Cavaliers from last in attendance to ninth after his 2003 NBA arrival. 

4. LeBron James: Media Mogul

His opinions on the NBA and China notwithstanding, James has been on point with many of his media-related decisions. The NBA superstar has built a strong media platform with Uninterrupted, a series of podcasts and documentaries highlighting James’s pursuit of displaying athletes’ endeavors off the court, field, etc.

James and Maverick Carter spearheaded the HBO show The Shop. Recently on the show, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California’s Fair Pay to Play Act. The bill makes it legal for athletes to fairly be compensated for the use of their name and likeness in the state of California.

The show has created some huge moments. Drake talked about his beef with Kanye West, Lil Nas X discussed his choice to come out and Anthony Davis went into detail about his trade demand from the Pelicans. James has created a platform where major moments like that can happen on a public stage. As his power as a media entity rises, James has leveraged his celebrity and impact on the court into a platform built around access to the brightest stars in entertainment. 

5. The Battle for New York

New York has always been Knicks country. The Knicks are very bad—they’ve failed to make the playoffs for six consecutive seasons. Still, the Knicks have had better attendance numbers than the Brooklyn Nets annually since the Nets moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn in 2012. The Nets announced that the first 10,000 fans for the October 25 home game against the Knicks would receive a Kyrie Irving jersey. After years of Knicks fans filling the Barclays Center and transforming a home game into a neutral crowd, the Nets are fighting back and trying to establish a solid and respectable home-court advantage.

On top of that, Nets star Kevin Durant added fuel to the fire when he said on Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning last month that the Knicks are not cool. The Nets will never overtake the Knicks as the most popular team in New York. After adding Irving and Durant in free agency, though, it will be an achievement if the Nets at least make a dent in the Knicks’ advantage as the talk of the city.

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