Of course the NBA is considering putting ads on jerseys, in a cynical betrayal of fans that already spend quite a bit of money to follow teams either at arenas in person, on TV, or on the Internet. Of course it's being sloughed off, because the NBA already allows a shoe company's logo on its team warm-ups, or ads all over the court, or because basketball teams in Europe already plaster their jerseys with ads. Because, of course, international teams are quite comparable to the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers. And, of course, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is making a show of encouraging the NBA to try it. From Dwain Price at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
"I've been trying to tell [the NBA]," Cuban said. "If someone wants to give us $10 million, I'll make it happen." [...]
"If the amount's enough, David will jump up and down," Cuban said. "He's not going to do it for $200,000 from Power Balance, but if somebody offers us $25 million, it's done."
Typical to the three of us. Stern will consider something that will make his league money, even at the detriment of NBA fans' approval of his product. Cuban will take a contrarian stance, publicly. And I'll act all haughty over it.
The NBA doesn't need $25 million from a company to put ads on its jerseys. The NBA needs to use restricted free agency to its benefit, and not overpay players that owners and GMs have needlessly fallen in love with. NBA teams don't need to take on Richard Jefferson's eight-figure salary in 2013-14 in return for the San Antonio Spurs' low-rung draft pick this June. If NBA owners were smarter about their whims -- from something as significant as trading cash for a second-round draft pick in June, or hiring/continuing to employ the personnel directors that run their teams -- this would not be an issue.
We've gone over this, extensively, before. Just because the NBA and other leagues have set the precedent for this sort of branding, to accrue the worth that teams routinely give in five-year deals to players at the league's average salary (the ads would raise around $30 million in revenue, according to those that nebulously attempt to quantify what exposure means to a business), it doesn't mean they have to crassly sell out like this. It shouldn't mean that you, as the consumer, have to hold your nose every time you buy an NBA jersey that already costs way, way too much.
It doesn't mean you have to look at the (insert corporation here) era and the (insert another corporation here) era the same way you do Kobe Bryant wearing the number eight, or Steve Nash in a Dallas Mavericks uniform.
Hopefully Mark Cuban is just shooting off, even if he is telling the truth about what David Stern would eventually sell out for. And hopefully this idea is shot down at the NBA's Board of Governors meeting next month. For good.
Can it, NBA. Right now.
- Mark Cuban