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NBA Fan Night: Pelican Oppression

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You know what would be a really good idea? Shut the best player in your league out of national TV coverage because "market size".

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Market size is a thing NBA franchises, players, and fans must grapple with every offseason. NBA players are constantly hounded about their ability to appeal across the country by placing themselves in a bigger market. Big market teams with championship pedigree like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers come in ready to steal away star players from "lesser" markets. Players simply make more money in these locales the story goes.

The premise is ridiculous. Two of the NFL's most marketable players play in Green Bay, Wisconsin (68th largest market) and New Orleans, Louisiana (51st). The last two NBA MVPs call Cleveland, Ohio (19th) and Oklahoma City (44th) home. True superstars will get paid where ever they suit up. Michele Roberts, National Basketball Players' Association executive director, laid out this in the starkest terms.

"Why don't we have the owners play half the games?" Roberts said, speaking in her Harlem office to ESPN The Magazine. "There would be no money if not for the players.

"Let's call it what it is. There. Would. Be. No. Money," she added, pausing for emphasis. "Thirty more owners can come in, and nothing will change. These guys [the players] go? The game will change. So let's stop pretending."

I will add that if you take away the top 30 players in the league the money would drop off significantly. Put those players in Eurobasket or China and watch those leagues soar as the English Premier League does now. The NBA is driven by star players. Those top players changing teams create ripple effects throughout the league.

Crescent City Connection

Fans in New Orleans know all to well about the arrival and departure of a superstar. In 2006 Drew Brees picked NOLA over Miami to reboot his career after a torn labrum (and the presence of Philip Rivers) forced him out of San Diego. All Brees has done in the nine seasons since is win 90 games and one Super Bowl while setting fire to NFL passing records. Despite playing in a small market, you can see Brees in commercials hawking Wrangler Jeans, Verizon, Pepsi, and NyQuil.

In 2011 after a lengthy lockout Chris Paul told the then-New Orleans Hornets that he would not be re-signing with the team and provided a list of potential trade destinations. His top picks? The New York Knicks (#1 market size) and Los Angeles Lakers (#2). While a trade to New York was impossible (since Dell Demps wanted, you know, assets in exchange) and a trade to the Lakers was nixed by David Stern, Paul eventually got his wish and was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Never mind that the Hornets had made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons while the Clippers had not even sniffed the postseason. Market. Size.

Marketing the Brow

The story of these two different superstars leads us to the present day. On Tuesday, thanks in part to an upswell in blogger support the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings won Fan Night, turning their November 18th tilt into a "national" television broadcast. Next Tuesday, November 25th, the Kings will return the favor visiting the Crescent City in the middle of a four game road trip of their own. Both teams will come into the game fresh; they both play their previous game on Saturday, the 22nd. Back-to-back Fan Night victories in store for this budding big man rivalry?

Umm. Where is my option to vote Brow-Boogie? #SACvsNOP? Here is a look at the Fan Night voting page after voting concluded.

Fan Night

That's right folks. Why watch Brow-Boogie II when you can watch the Golden State Warriors visit the Miami Heat. Even if you wanted to see Brow-Boogie II, you do not have the option to vote for it. I am sure seeing these two teams on National TV is really rare...

Oh wait. No.

See, the Golden State Warriors will be on National TV (actual National TV - ESPN, TNT, and ABC) 19 times this year. The Miami Heat do one better with 20, trailing only the Clippers, Bulls, Thunder, and Cavs. SB Nation has the full run down of National TV appearances here.

The New Orleans Pelicans (featuring possible alien Anthony Davis) and Sacramento Kings (Boogiezilla is now a thing) are on National Television just six times. COMBINED. Given this dearth of exposure, would the "forces that be" give the fans throughout the country a chance to see the two best young big men on the planet?

Part two came once the Kentucky game turned into a blowout. It was time for Kings-Pelicans. That’s when I watched DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis going to war with each other, trading ridiculous finishes at the rim, and battling to the bitter end, in a game between two teams that have surprised the entire league, almost entirely because of their superstar big men. It was the most fun I’ve had watching a game maybe all year. I can’t wait to see Boogie-Brow showdowns for the next decade.

Andrew Sharp - Grantland

I hope you purchased NBA League Pass Mr. Sharp. That's the only way you'll see Brow-Boogie II.

Poster Child

Maybe that is the entire point. Sharp did write before the beginning of the season that Davis is the "Human League Pass Advertisement". The NBA cannot go on giving away the next golden child before it is too soon. Those League Pass subscriptions run $199 a pop to watch on your television. The 76ers (currently 0-11) sure aren't going to move product.

Still, this move seems counterproductive. It was only 18 months ago that David Stern and the NBA Board of Governors were rejecting a bid to move the Kings to Seattle. Less than four years ago the league took the drastic step of purchasing the New Orleans Hornets from owner George Shinn. Both cities have poured millions of tax dollars into keeping their teams. $50 Million in renovations to the Smoothie King Center. $258 Million to build a new arena in Sacramento.

Wouldn't the more prudent move be to support these franchises, once on a precipice of relocation? Not to "gift" a "national" broadcast to them - but at least provide the possibility of such exposure? Instead, these contenders in the rough and tumble Western Conference will battle in obscurity and the Twitter-World of #LeaguePassAlert. Hopes for increased publicity (and the resulting merchandise sales) dashed before conception.

The NFL's success is due in part to the parity the league enjoys. No one ever (seriously) rumored that Peyton Manning needed to leave Indianapolis for a bigger market to win. In the NBA, superstars are constantly being rumored to go to bigger markets. It appears the league would rather "win" with the exposure for two weeks in July (and the constant stream of poorly sourced rumor mongering for 50 weeks a year) than have fans in most small markets believe their franchise (and with all those tax dollars invested, make no mistake it is their franchise too) can compete from November to April.

Or hey, maybe I'm just a fan in one of those small markets with a long enough memory to know how this story can end.