Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Swag Alert: Another Z Tee

Posted By on Tue, Mar 23, 2010 at 12:30 PM

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From Homage Clothing. Go forth and purchase.

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Peter Max Paints the Big Shaqaelangelo

Posted By on Tue, Mar 23, 2010 at 12:23 PM

These portraits by Peter Max, the famous artist known mainly for those Statue of Liberty designs, were done for the art show curated by Shaq, currently on view in the NYC.

Prints available for between $199 and $250.

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

The Future of Business LeBron

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 at 4:03 PM

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The LeBron news of the day is the seemingly imminent renewal of his contract with Nike. Brian Windhorst reported this morning that James appears close to reupping with The Swoosh, though no numbers are available right now. His original $100 million deal expires in a few months. This comes on the heels of LeBron's new contract with McDonald's, his second deal with Coca-Cola, and additional contracts with State Farm and others.

As rumors continue to swirl about The King possibly chasing endorsement money in New York once free agency starts, it's perhaps a good time to talk about the future of Business LeBron. It's already abundantly clear that LeBron doesn't need to chase anything, let alone the money. People come to LeBron. Playing in Cleveland, LeBron's already one of the highest paid athletes in the world, raking in $40 million last year. On Forbes list of highest earners, James was sixth, behind only David Beckham, Kimi Raikkonen, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods.

Anyone still clinging to the notion that zip codes will determine how much cash LeBron can amass hasn't been paying attention to how #23 has gone about his business off the court. More to the point, anyone still clinging to that notion also probably thinks that LeBron's business off the court starts and ends with endorsements, or at least that endorsements are the only possible key to the Scrooge McDuck vault of of gold that LeBron will undoubtedly have installed in his house one day. They are, after all, the traditional means for athletes to pad their bank accounts off the field. It's business, extra business, lucrative business, but business as usual to some extent. A smiling mug, a commercial, a billboard or five, and a big check for pimping a product — soda, lawnmowers, vitamins, whatever.

But what indication has LeBron or his team ever given that James is content with business as usual? It's quite the opposite, actually, and has been from the very moment that LeBron canned Aaron Goodwin and started LRMR, putting his friends in charge of his empire.

If there was anything of note to take away from the otherwise uninsightful and unspectacular feature on LeBron in Esquire a few years back, it was the forward-thinking business acumen of LRMR and James.


You can see they've talked this over. LeBron and Maverick. They've sat around on gaming chairs, around an Xbox campfire, and they've said, "I've got it, I've got it, we don't do sponsorships, we do partnerships." And maybe Maverick sponged it half off of someone in a Nike boardroom and half off of Jay-Z, but it doesn't matter. Because the reason this business model will work is, here are the most popular kids in school, and now in life, and they are the ones commandeering the bake sale. Nobody wants to be in a partnership with a loser. You want someone who is airborne, someone who can control climate, the guy who can get the girl and win the game and who looks good with his shirt off.

"What are we doing differently?" says Maverick, and you can tell he loves this question, and loves his answer more: "One thing we do differently, we like to control — well, control is a bad word — we like to be involved in every aspect of the brand we're partnered with: who they're advertising with, what the advertiser looks like — if it's a commercial, then who's the director? We really strive on the management side once a deal is done, so it becomes a partnership, not just a deal where they pay LeBron, he shows up."

So why is everyone obsessed with talking about LeBron and possible sponsorship money in New York?

As LeBron's friend Jay-Z said, "I'm not looking at you dudes, I'm looking past you." (Also could have gone with, "I'm not a businessman. I'm a business, man.")

During the hoopla over LeBron's McDonald's commercial, a little nugget of a line from a Wall Street Journal story seemed to slip off the radar, one that sort of hints at where LeBron is taking his business priorities going forward.

The deal signals a shift in Mr. James's strategy. Mr. James formed LRMR in 2006 partly to garner endorsement deals for himself and other athletes. The firm will still seek to land deals for other athletes, But LRMR Chief Executive Maverick Carter says the firm is now "not terribly interested" in finding more deals for Mr. James himself.

Instead, it will focus on expanding his career in other areas, especially the film business, hoping to build on the success of a recent movie project. The McDonald's pact was an exception, Mr. Carter says, because it means Mr. James now has ties with what LRMR considers the most iconic global brands: Coca-Cola Co., Nike Inc. and McDonald's.

What does that mean? Well, first, be prepared for McDonalds, Coke, and Nike to all promote the hell out of LeBron's upcoming movie, Fantasy Basketball Camp. That's exactly what Maverick was talking about when he discussed partnerships and how they differ from sponsorships.

What else? How about LeBron the executive producer. How about Spring Hill Productions, the production arm of LRMR created for the More Than a Game project. How about LeBron hobnobbing with billionaires at the exclusive Sun Valley conference run by Allen & Co. in Idaho, where he met and talked with moguls from every corner of the media world. Could you see LeBron, the guy not interested in taking on more endorsements right now, focusing his time off the court on film, acting and producing?

Any of that would be more in line with how James has run his business than simply lining up endorsement gigs, and, more importantly, more lucrative. And different. And forward thinking. Remember, it's a tough economic climate for companies to fork over millions to an athlete spokesman, even tougher when the world of athletes is getting rocked by scandals. LeBron's beyond that now. Where else do you go when you've already got Nike, McDonald's, and Coke in your back pocket? Forward.

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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Swag Alert: It's Z Week

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 at 1:31 PM

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Today or tomorrow, Zydrunas Ilgauskas will once again sign his name to a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and we can all rejoice. If all goes well, Z will be in uniform for the Cavs next game, March 24, but more importantly, it will be next Sunday, March 28, when Z will play his first game at the Q since he was shipped to the Wizards at the trade deadline.

That's going to be one helluva ovation for the big man. Mike Brown better not screw this one up. You start Z, first of all. And second, here's to hoping LeBron lets the big man be announced last in the starting lineups. That's the way to welcome him back.

Oh, and there's this shirt from Fresh Brewed Tees
. $20. Worth every penny. Or lots of pennyz.

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

So, Yeah, Playing Ball at the Q Is Kinda Cool

Posted By on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 1:03 PM

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The first thing you do is walk over to the announcers table and stare out into the seats. First, the lower bowl, then up at Loudville. Then you look down at the white residue of chalk on the black surface. You imagine a crowd of 20,562 strong, all eyes on you. You pour some imaginary powder on your hands, rub them together, then toss the mixture into the air, raising your pale, thin arms like Atlas lifting up the world.

It's the sort of mimickery you did as a kid, in your bedroom, in the front yard, imitating a Mark Price three or a Brad Daugherty dunk, when no one could watch except the throngs of adoring fans in your imagination. Except this time, you're on the floor at the Q, you're almost 30-years-old, and you're throwing imaginary chalk in the air and raising your pale, thin arms in front of your friends, some security guards, and some obviously entertained Cavs employees. And you could really care less what anyone thinks of you.

Some things never change.

The Cavs have a whole mess of prizes they divvy out in contests for season ticket holders who renew for the next season. There's jerseys and autographs and meet-and-greets on the lower end of the bounty spectrum, an apartment, some lawnmowers, and golf packages from sponsors, and tickets and suites and parking passes from the team. And then there's the prizes people actually want. A VIP trip to a road game where you fly on the team plane. A pass to the 2011 Media Day. The chance to watch a game from the Cavs bench. Lunch with Danny Ferry at the Cleveland Clinic Courts.

Then there's the "Court of Dreams," a chance to play ball for two hours with your friends on the floor at the Q. As my luck would have it, a good family friend won this prize and included me on the roster, and I didn't even have to threaten him with a tire iron, which I clearly would have had the invitation not been extended.

So a couple of weeks ago, on a dreary Tuesday night, 20 guys, almost all of whom have no business being on a CYO basketball court, let alone an NBA one, assembled with knee wraps and Advil on the hardwood of our heroes.

Once you've imitated LeBron's chalk toss, you notice a few of things. 1) It's hard to shoot normally, trying to retain focus and depth perception in an empty arena with thousands of empty seats makes it even harder. 2) The floor is huge — like, really huge, especially for someone who never works out. 3) The Cavs employees forced to babysit for the ragtag bunch have no interest in watching you play. They really don't. 4) The security guard who asks you how often you get to play on the floor, obviously mistaking you for someone special, maybe a friend of Dan Gilbert's, is incredibly jealous but nice and reminds you how freaking lucky you are to be on the court.

There's a litany of things that you wish you could do — things you've planned and schemed over in the days leading up to the event — but every single one falls into the "The Cavs Would Be Mad and It'd Probably Piss Off My Season Ticket Holder Friend" category. Like what? Leaving an inbounds play taped to the bottom of Mike Browns' chair. Writing "Watch out for #23, he's good" in the visitor's locker room. Trying to pass out your laminated and bound "Handshakes of the Future: 365 Ways to Look Smooth" manual (note: still looking for a publisher on that one, if anyone's interested) to every employee you come across. Chopping off a piece of the hardwood to take home. Autographing the spot where you made a layup. The options are really endless.

But you can't do any of these things, mainly for decorum's sake, but also because you really forget about everything else once you step on the floor. Once you do, a funny thing happens — you kind of forget where you are. Once the teams are lined up and someone hollers, Ball In, you focus on the game. I won't say it's just like playing at the YMCA, because it's not, but tunnel vision definitely takes over, and it's not until you desperately drag yourself over to the water cooler that you step back and realize just exactly where you are.

Once fatigue, arthritis, and various other ailments set in and an unofficial "Let's all rest for a minute before we die" timeout is called, you revert back to being 9 years-old. You walk over to half court and start furiously lobbing misguided missiles towards the basket, attempting to duplicate LeBron's famous pre-game halfcourt underhand shot. You soon realize it's very far, your arm hurts, and that you will very likely dislocate your shoulder before even getting a ball to hit the backboard.

After sucking down some water, the childlike giddiness takes over again. You get a friend to stand on the baseline and repeatedly make entry passes to you as you furiously sprint (edit: lope like a wounded animal) across the floor to the "S" in "Cavaliers" that stretches across center court where you rise with springy legs (edit: try to jump but achieve less vertical than Zydrunas Ilgauskas) and unload a dagger (edit: heave blindly with all your might) towards the hoop, just like( (edit: about 1% like) LeBron's buzzer-beating game-winner in the Eastern Conference Finals against Orlando.

In your 9-year-old's mind, the 1-10 performance (that's not 1 make, that's 1 shot that hit the rim) is a success and you revel in it as your 28-year-old body curses your 50-year-old knees the next morning.

(Note to the Cavs staff: I may or may not have written "Hot sauce in my bag" somewhere while I was on the floor. Whether I did or not is between Delonte and myself.)

Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.

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Is That Chalk or Bird Poop? The LeBron Banner Gets a Much Needed Shower

Posted By on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 12:36 PM

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Code Green. After Cleveland’s Design Review Committee scuttled a proposed new of 10-story LeBron banner across from the Q, Cleveland has opted to wash the old banner while the city waits on a possible redesign to be submitted by Nike. Window washers were spraying it clean Tuesday morning, hopefully giving bystanders the chance to see how much chalk was intended to be in the design and how much of the "chalk" was actually just bird crap.

The massive “We Are All Witnesses” ad is not Cleveland’s first LeBanner. The first one — a tight profile of James in flight, about to dunk — went up in late 2005, after Nike debuted the slogan and attending campaign. It was replaced in less than two years, in 2007 .

The current banner was nice and shiny for months, before a growing wave of bird droppings began accumulating on its top. In recent months, it looked like the King was bracing for a mouthful of crap. No more.

According to Scene’s best calculations, the move has nudged the odds of LeBron leaving Cleveland down to 1.76%. In terms of Scene’s LeBron James Threat Level, he remains at Pollard status. Do not panic. You have to imagine the King will be happy with a freshly manicured billboard and Cleveland's continued efforts to be a steward of LeBron's image, figurative and otherwise. —- D.X. Ferris

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Napoleon Dynamite Lives (And He's a Bobcat)

Posted By on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 7:39 AM

I see a guy busting a move with no dance partner and I'm immediately thinking of Napoleon Dynamite (watch the clip, you know you want to). I suppose this is true for people my age (at least the cool ones), whereas an older generation might have thought of John Travolta or Patrick Swayze. Granted, Napoleon's not even in the same zip code in real dance talent as the other two, but that's sorta the point — it was earnest and surprisingly graceful and all about overcoming acute self-awareness, something, I suppose, neither Captain Scientologist's nor Swayze's character was very concerned with.

Ok, so maybe only dorky, shy guys who can't dance think of Napoleon first.

He was very much on my mind though this weekend as I took in a trio of MAC tournament games at the Q. I also was thinking about something Chuck Klosterman said on a podcast with Simmons awhile ago. I'm paraphrasing (heavily) but the gist was something like this: When he turns on a WAC game late at night on ESPNU or another contest of that ilk, he thinks about how big that moment is for the kids on the court. Not that it's the most important moment of their lives, but hell, it's kind of cool — they're on TV, on ESPN, and who cares if they don't play for Duke or Kentucky or Kansas. It's a helluva thing, really.

Even if you're dancing.

There's really no set-up or background for this video beyond those thoughts. I saw the OU Bobcats place twice this weekend, and each time I, and the rest of the small group I was with, was mesmerized by the solo male dancer on the Bobcats' dance team. He wasn't particularly good, he wasn't particularly bad, but he was earnest and not self-aware and surprisingly graceful and the crowd loved him.

It's no ESPN, but it's what I got. Take it away, Napoleon.

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