Monday, July 18, 2011

Dwight Howard could be the Yao Ming of China

Word on the world wide internets is that the lockout has already begun to take its toll on the NBA talent pool. Yes my friends - if the league were to actually play games next season, we might be bereft of the otherwordly skills of Sonny Weems, Darius Songaila...and THE MACHINE, Sasha Vujacic. These men, plus dozens more to come of such stature, will enter into deals that won't release them to join their NBA teams for a season that interrupts in-progress Turkish League play.

So for guys like James Jones, the Graham twins and anyone on the Bobcats' roster, I understand their thinking. Even in getting paid millions of dollars per season, these guys aren't going to have long NBA careers. Most everything they make now will have to support them and their families for the rest of their lives. They've got to play while their bodies can handle it. The choice should be easy - take one year of your life, live in Turkey, Israel, China or Russia, make some change and come back when the lockout ends.

On the other hand, I'm absolutely mystified with Deron Wiliams, Dwight Howard or anyone else of that stature (even someone on the level of say, a Josh Smith or Danny Granger) talking about going overseas to play. These guys are on 8 figure contracts with their respective teams. They are in a different stratosphere of decision-making from Darius Songaila. It's like Darius is deciding to enter into the Indy 500 with a Toyota 4Runner. A fine car, but if he were to crash that thing, it's replaceable. The risk is there, of course, but it's relatively low. Dwight and Deron are driving Bentleys. Kobe and Wade are driving Bentleys made out of platinum and ivory with Jesus' robes as upholstery. You just don't enter any of those cars into the Indy 500. It's just not worth the risk (and with that ladies and gentlemen, the first and last Indycar reference on MAMBINO).

At this point, playing basketball overseas during the lockout would really only be acceptable any All-Star or elite player if they had some sort of Jordan-esque competitive hunger that could only be satiated by organized athletics(which I don't buy) or they are idiots that live paycheck to paycheck, and earning $5 mil this year is a must (and I wouldn't doubt that the latter has to be true for a lot of these boneheads. They have platinum and ivory Bentleys! With Jesus seats! You heard it here first).

I don't buy the argument that any of their desire to play abroad stems from a need to stay "fresh" for when the season starts - that's what training is for. I know that there's nothing to really replicate "game shape" (hence, the term), but that's why team captains (like Kobe, KG, Kidd, etc) should be organizing team workouts. Show me you're truly team-first guys and put up some of their own money to host these type of team activities while the lockout is imposed.

As an alternative, I see something like Kobe's barnstorming tour in China as a much more probable. They'd basically be absolute zero-defense mini-All-Star games (lower intensity and probability for getting hurt) with an excellent financial upside. They would inadvertently be marketing the league, but perhaps more importantly (for them), they'd be building their own personal brands within the largest emerging market in the world. So this is where Dwight's statement today makes my whole stance on playing in a foreign professional league two-sided.

I don't think there is one NBA player that could stand to benefit more from Chinese exposure than Dwight Howard. LeBron and Kobe already have worldwide brands. They are worldwide brands. At this point, their going overseas and playing in the Chinese Basketball Association wouldn't stand to create as much as a net gain as this smiling, hulking caricature of a human (and I mean that respectfully). Dwight is not a champion, an MVP or an icon yet. But his Atlas-like physical features and floor-rattling game are both more distinct than any player since das Diesel. They translate beyond any language barrier and transcend the issues of race and politics. He would be risking hundreds of millions in an NBA contract if he got injured, but the exposure he would gain is priceless. He certainly wouldn't be bigger than Yao, but he could be bigger than Kobe, LeBron, Wade, their 6 titles and 3 MVPs. Think about it, big man.

I still don't think he risks it, but just for argument's sake, if Dwight played in China, I think he could drop 40/28/7 nightly, with 15 blocks per game. On 80% shooting. In 20 minutes. I wish that was an exaggeration, but I think those numbers might even be on the low end.

No comments:

Post a Comment