Most NBA players who've entertained playing overseas this season have gravitated towards hoops hotbeds like Spain, Italy, Turkey and China. Very few have considered the United Kingdom, a land where soccer and cricket are clearly more popular. They also have a grand history of bear-baiting, although I'm pretty sure that's been frowned upon for at least a few decades.
Because of their status as second-class franchises, British hoops teams don't necessarily have the money to pay NBA stars. Ron Artest, however, is interested in plying his trade in England. In order to sign him, the Cheshire Jets will have to get creative in how they'll afford him. That's exactly what they intend to do. From Marc Stein for ESPN.com (via EOB):
Jets director Peter Hawkins told ESPN.com Thursday that his team, in an attempt to offset the monetary limitations it faces compared to clubs from bigger leagues in Europe, will try to get Artest prominent TV work in England, should he agree to join the Jets.
"You'll appreciate that we haven't got the means to entice someone of Ron's standing on financial grounds," Hawkins said. "Our commitment is to help raise Ron's profile in the UK in order to help him develop his music and movie career over here while playing basketball."
One possibility, according to a source with knowledge of the Jets' plans, is trying to find Artest a role on a British soap opera.
There's not yet any sort of deal in place for Artest to play for the Jets, but he intends to cross the pond next week to see if they can work something out. If this soap opera gambit ends up in a contract, I think the show-in-question and any payment from the Jets should be written off as charity for tax purposes. Because it would be a special gift to the entire world.
British soap operas like "EastEnders" and "Coronation Street" are fixtures in their culture, to the point where Artest could appear on one and become more of a media star in the UK than he is in his homeland. I'm not sure if the Jets could swing a cameo on one of those hits, but here's hoping. Because I would really like to see Ron-Ron's tweeted reaction to meeting Michelle Keegan.
Or, who knows, maybe this whole thing is a stunt by the Jets to get some publicity. Lord knows Artest is plenty used to being the subject of media ploys. It's just that his are usually for a good cause.
- Ron Artest