The Athlete Is A Brand In The World of Basketball

These days athletes are just as powerful as rock stars or actors. The person is now a brand and every move an athlete takes may not always be in his or her own favor. Brands matter significantly , but in securing a stable and prosperous future, many actors and athletes have put themselves and their own careers in jeopardy, and on a macro level they also put their personal brands in jeopardy.

In the basketball world we have seen young athletes jumping from high school to high school, talented players with well-known reputations for their inflated ego or the use of inappropriate behavior on social media. On the courts, where the stars have made it , we see players who have lost everything or filed for bankruptcy, committed criminal acts as big as murder and as small as traffic light infractions, we have seen divorces or domestic take the athlete through a media frenzy, but most importantly we have seen how all these things contribute to the damage of the athlete’s personal brand.

Alex Kline, a writer for Coaching For Success, writes that ,”It is easy to shrug off what detractors say, but in the world of basketball perception creates reality. This especially applies in the case of the modern day youth basketball player: one who constantly doesn’t understand that their actions today will impact their future tomorrow. That is unfortunately the stigma surrounding the majority of young basketball stars these days and it is only getting worse.”

When athletes eventually realize that their wrongdoing can seriously affect their careers both on an off the court, a higher level of self awareness of the person as a brand is achieved. The athlete recognizes that the idea of simply being a basketball player for the rest of one’s life is an impossible feat. While young basketball players are being taught new ways to expand their game on the court, much-needed lessons must come off the court first and foremost in order for them to succeed both during and after basketball. This is where identity diversification comes in. I wrote about this in my post, Ball is Life: The Importance of Identity Diversification in Basketball. where I discussed why it is important to build a career outside your sole talent.

As people, we have cognitive response to everything that happens. Like sponges, we absorb information about our surroundings, especially people, and diagnose each situation in a matter of seconds. Branding is tied in with cognition. For every person we have ever interacted with, and even those we admire from afar, we have thoughts, insight, gossip and an overruling opinion as to whether we would be friends with that person, hire them, want to work with them, ignore them, or even hurt them. While few realize it, Michael Jordan is not the only one with a “Jordan Brand”. Every person has a brand. For basketball players, their brand consists of what they do on the court mixed in with how hard they work, their love for the game, what they do when no one is watching, how they interact with peers and strangers, how they handle new opportunities and struggles, whether they handle themselves well with the media or not, their social media pages and essentially anything else they do. The way they speak, walk and smile all factor into their “Jordan Brand”.

Unfortunately, young athlete who are just beginning their careers do not have tunnel vision or think long term about their choices. They do not realize the short and long term impact of every move they make and how it affects their personal brand. What is their plan after basketball and how will their brand either acclimate them to new opportunities or throw them for a wild reality check? Do all of them truly want to be broadcasters or coaches? Or are they only limited to these professions because of their limited qualifications and that those whom they have alienated won’t give them a chance in another field? No one has the answer to that as it is on a case-by-case basis. What we do know, however, is those who treat others right are typically rewarded, while those who choose differently typically are not. It is that simple, yet so complex to many. The answer to this might also be identity diversification, and I have written about this here

As the class of 2015 transitions from their glory days of dominating games as seniors, the true test of one’s character and brand will be their transition to college. How will they handle going from the amateur ranks to the dog-eat-dog world of college basketball: an unpaid job with a second occupation in academics and a true test of one’s love for the sport and their character. College is where everyone goes to find out who they are and what they are truly passionate about. It is only a matter of time before each of these young basketball stars builds their brand. Hopefully it is for the better, and hopefully not for the worse.

A Basketball Player in Cuba: The Anthony Carmelo Vice Feature

Carmelo Anthony is one basketball player who seems to be loved by all. VICE News recently covered Anthony’s trip to Cuba where he was greeted by scores of enthusiastic fans. It was his first time in Cuba, and from this video stream we get to see the global appeal of basketball. In an interesting fashion, Anthony’s visit to Cuba through VICE was to explore the rising interest in soccer in the country. This is a feature where basketball meets the rise of soccer.

I have written about how the availability of infrastructure and resources can influence people’s gravitation towards sports, marketing, branding and even training. Cuba’s history and economical decline have drastically affected how sports has grown in the country. The New York Cosmos travelled to Cuba to play against a domestic cuban team which is another way to build international relations between the two countries as icy foreign relations begin to thaw.

Walking around Old Havana, Carmelo Anthony can not even believe that he has so many fans. This disbelief can be matched by the true value of international branding , a strong goal and initiative the NBA is trying to push forward. We see Anthony mixing with the locals, talking to people on the street and trying cigars. The people are welcoming and it takes him no time at all to really get settled. Cuba is still untapped as a place for sports potential. One particular community organizer comments on how easy soccer is for the people to learn. Soccer is easier to learn and take up because it does not require as much initial spending on facilities and gear much like basketball or other sports. Soccer is now the sport being promoted amongst the youth in Cuba.

Cubans are ready to be seen by the world. They are ready to be known and to show what they can give. Lets hope we are ready. Check out the video by VICE news below.

 

Then and Now: The Evolution of Basketball

My name is Blake Rubin, and I have been in love with basketball as far as I can remember. But this sport has been around far longer than my grandfather has, and I wanted to do some research to really understand the differences between the sport then and now. Basketball is a resurging sport. Over the years it has gone through what one would call a phenomenal rebranding, with more international stars and televised programming adding to its global appeal. The sport however has not always been this way. History dictates how we see our present, and I took it upon myself to learn more about the history of this sport to give myself more things to work with.

The Road To Eldorado shows the evolution of basketball, then and now

The First Basketball Game

Historical accounts tell us that the first basketball type game may have originated by the Olmec people of ancient mexico. The Aztec and Mayan cultures also played a game similar to basketball, with the difference being the ball. For the Aztec’s the “ball” often used in these games were the heads of conquered foes. This ancient form of basketball can be best seen in the below clips of Mel Gibson’s film “Apocalypto” and Dreamworks “ The Road To Eldorado” Both of these films represent some of the most visual conveyance of the ancient form of basketball.

The First True Basketball Game

The first true basketball game was played with 18 players with nine players being on each side of the team. It was invented in this new form by a canadian doctor named James Naismith. He invented the sport  for the YMCA to have a sport to play in the winter time. At this point, the game was not even called “basketball” till a man named William R. Chase scored what is recorded as the first point in the history of the game, and then the name Basketball was suggested as the official name of the game. In this time of the sport’s history, the game lasted for 30 minutes, which of course is different from how long the game is being played now.

The Key differences

The key differences in the sport then,  when it was in its first game and now is that the game is played with it’s own specialized ball, newer rules in shooting and line placement are currently being adhered to.  Basketball has also gone through a strong commercialization process of the years. The more acceptance and followership the sports acquires, the number of televised programming and sponsorship opportunities increases, with organizations like the NBA now cashing into the booming sport as a business.

 

Mental Attitude: The Keys To Success in Basketball and The Arts

Becoming a strong athlete or top basketball player is no small feat. In sports, the arts, and even in the military, a lot of the grunt work is dominantly physical and intricately also mental. Mental attitudes shape performance and performance shapes results. Often times the audience approach to basketball performance analysis is limited to what we see on the external, but the battle as they say, is in the mind. When we think of performance we don’t think about how much focus is required to let go of distractions coming from the crowd or even fellow team mates, learning to breath under pressure, to make a foul shot which is predominantly a 90% mental action, How does the mind affect performance? Can being in your own head toy with how you perform on the court? These are questions basketball psychologists try to answer by studying mental attitudes and competitive advantage in relation to performance.  According to this is a list of skills needed to be a top performer in basketball. Not surprising that this list also works with achieving mastery level as an artist . The saying goes that “excellence is therefore not an act, but a habit” and achieving excellence in the world of basketball has been attributed not only to the prowess of the player but also the presence of a mental coach. Mental coaches also serve as mentors, an essential ingredient in developing skill and mastery of game and even self.

Mental coaches provide an accountability structure for players working to develop strong mental attitudes towards performance. It is the mental coach who provides the feedback on mistakes, lack of focus, corrections on play and position. Mental coaches help athletes develop in these areas of focus:

Awareness

Learning

Development

Change

Performance

Coaching

There is no difference between this area of focus for basketball and even what is needed to become a master in the arts. To achieve a level of mastery requires constant skill acquisition, challenging plateaued levels and developing mental toughness. In his new book “Mastery”, Robert Greene the author of  New York Times bestseller “The 48 Laws of Power” released writes about the process of becoming one of the masters, and the skills needed to do so are highly attached to these areas of mental focus.

You can watch this Robert Greene interview to understand his take on Mastery Mentoring + Mastery+ Power = Success by Robert Greene

 

Robert Greene speaking on Mastery

Cognitive Psychology and Performance

The world of sports psychology continually tries to answer the various questions we have when it comes to motivation, discipline and performance in sports. Scientists have tried to understand and hypothesize how neural activity affects performance in crucial moments in sports history, one of those being Mark Price missing the record-tying shot from the charity stripe, which would have sealed his 90.4% shot record. Before Michael Williams of the Minnesota Timberworlves broke the record,  Mike Prince  I came across an interesting article named ” Why You Can’t Shoot The Same Foul Shot Twice” by Nikhil Swaminathan for Scientific American, and here is the main takeaway .

mark-price-shootjpg-f285c4f09b922a0d

A new study by Neuron, concluded that in play ” the brain does not plan the execution of a shot in the exactly the same fashion each step of the way”. In studying two Rhesus monkeys, scientists observed as the monkeys made simple practiced movements like reaching towards a target,. They focused on the individual neurons in the premotor cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher functions like movement planning. In discovery, scientists found that off line neural activity is a major factor in predicting the speed of each reach.

 

For more details, read here

Hoop Dreams: The Global Future of Basketball

Last year, the world lay mesmerized by the drama and spectacle of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil. All stars sat at the table before them, and the dramatic wins and loses had their cups running over with home goals, ear biting, weeping Colombian players and so on. It was amazing. For what seemed like a long time coming, many Americans tuned into the sport with as much enthusiasm as their international counterparts, crowding in parks, cheering and mourning the rise and fall of the US national team, who again, surprised the world with their performance. It was a world cup as never seen before. Long time winners left early, and the strongest in the game came out on top.

I often wonder whether in the future, basketball could have a similar audience. In this article, NBA lead writer Josh Martin highlights a similar concern I have with the future of basketball in the global space. Will basketball ever be as successful or appreciated as an international sports, just as soccer, baseball or even the NFL are?

Basketball has not been able to catch up with soccer as an international sport, but it is getting there. The FIBA World Cup, though not as popular as FIFA, has managed to catch up to the world’s most thrilling sports. as this article reports. Basketball is quickly becoming an internationally branded sport, also not void of it’s own theatrics and excitement. The contributing factors to basketball’s rising popularity can be attributed to an increase in revenue after renewals from national television pacts, this is to say that the sport is gaining traction and more people are watching. An estimated $4.75 billion was generated for the league in the 2014-2015 year gap. That’s a whooper! And it looks like “things can only get better”.

The NBA is now one of the most popular brands in China, with a 70 million people follower base on popular blogs like Sina Weibo and Tencent. These are the hoop dreams coming to life outside what we’ve known to be our global scope of the sport, a scope that is often limited to the U.S. With the global expansion of basketball fueled by strong marketing and branding efforts, more countries continue to adopt the sport, but how far can they take this and are the grass root efforts and resources enough to propel developing countries with interest to the top?

What generally sets the USA apart both in soccer and basketball is the availability of resources. We saw team USA’s strength in the world cup, not particularly because this is a sport tailored or grounded in USA tradition as opposed to our european counterparts, but more so the positive effects of investment and financial resources which are highly important factors when it comes to training.

As much as basketball is catching up, soccer is still moving forward, and the gap continues. Soccer’s re-ignition in the US may mean more investment, marketing and branding. As basketball and soccer do not face similar challenges in taking up the game, soccer may continually lead in popularity. My version of hoop dreams do not dictate basketball being on the same playing platform as soccer, but as basketball being an internationally credited sport in it’s own right, meaning more marketing, branding, advertising, viewership and support.

The Latest Around the NBA

It seems like something big is happening everyday in the NBA. In the middle of the summer is generally when the NBA’s free agency period slows down but we continue to see moves made. Let’s take a look at some of the latest moves to happen in the NBA.

Deron Williams Bought Out by Nets; Signs with Mavs

Blake Rubin - Deron Williams

Williams joins the Mavs

Deron Williams has not been the franchise player the Brooklyn Nets had hoped for. Since signing his max contract, he has not given the Nets much of what they paid for. The Nets decided to cut their losses short, agreeing to buy Williams out of the final 2 years and $43.5 million owed to him. Williams has cleared waivers and signed with the Dallas Mavericks for 2 years $10 million.

Enes Kanter Resigns with OKC

Kanter was one of the top prizes in free agency but unfortunately he was a restricted free agent which limited his options. The Trail Blazers however after losing LaMarcus Aldridge put in an offer of 4 years $70 million that the Thunder had the opportunity to match. So Kanter, who averaged a double-double with the Thunder after arriving via trade from the Utah Jazz, remains with the Thunder. Kanter has offensive upside but has been a huge let down on the defensive end.

Cole Aldrich Signs with Clippers

The Clippers nearly lost their prized center DeAndre Jordan to the Dallas Mavericks. Jordan has second thoughts and decided to return home to the Clippers signing a max contract. With the Clippers solidifying their center position and starting 5, they now moved to fill the backup center role previously held by Spencer Hawes. The Clippers signed former 2010 lottery pick Cole Aldrich to fill that role. Although he was drafted in 2010, the Clippers will be the 5th stop for Aldrich in his career. After being drafted by the Thunder, Cole made stops in Houston, Sacramento, and with the New York Knicks.

Who Remains and Where Could They Head?

NBA free agency has been exciting and fast paced. Many players have already found new homes while others have re-upped with their current team. In a shocking move, former Pacers forward David West who opted out of a $12 million year has signed with the Pacers for $1.2 million. Lets take a look at who else is still out there that can help a team today.

JR Smith – Guard

Smith had a JR Smith like year for the Cavs last year. Unfortunately, he didn’t finish as hot as he would have liked to this year thus diminishing his value in free agency. Smith will likely look for a multi year deal with a contender. There is still a chance he returns to the Cavs.

Enes Kanter – Center

Blake Rubin - Jeremy LinKanter was traded at the deadline from Utah to Oklahoma City. He played well offensively but struggled defensively. He still put up good enough numbers to get a good deal. Problem is he’s a restricted free agent and these deals take time. It’s unclear if he fits new head coach Billy Donovan’s system in OKC.

Jeremy Lin – Point Guard

Remember this guy? It’s Linsanity. After the Rockets made him an offer the Knicks could not match 3 years ago, Lin is now back on the market. He has not had as much success since leaving the Knicks and has played backup point guard for much of his deal. Still Lin can provide minutes for a team. The Mavs have been linked to talks with Lin, but I think we all want to see Lin back in New York.

There are many other great free agents out there. Teams have been spending at record pace and may not have much more money to offer players left out there.

NBA Free Agency Rumors

Well, NBA Free Agency is now underway! Many teams wasted no time meeting with prized players at 12:01 AM of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning in order to have a face to face interact and express their interest in these players. There should be a lot of movement and while players can agree to new deals, they ultimately can’t sign anything until July 9th to make it official. With that said, let’s take a look at what has already happened in the first 12 hours or so of free agency.

Brooklyn Nears Deals with Lopez and Young

A big priority for the Brooklyn Nets was holding onto center Brook Lopez and forward Thaddeus Young and it looks as though they have. The Nets have a near agreement with both, Lopez is said to receive a 3 year $60 million with a player option for year 3 while Young is said to have a deal in place for 4 years $50 million. Both Young and Lopez at age 27 represent somewhat of a youth movement and the future of the Brooklyn Nets as the Nets try to rid themselves of aging once upon a time players in Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.

New Orleans Pelicans Extend Anthony Davis

Blake Rubin - anthony davis

Anthony Davis is now has the NBA’s richest deal.

Anthony Davis is a star in the NBA, no questions asked. Now, Davis will be paid like one. The Pelicans wanted to show their appreciation for what Davis has done for their franchise. While they could have been outside some free agents house as the clock stroked midnight, the Pelicans extended their franchise player to the tune of 5 years $145 million, the richest deal in NBA history.

Aminu Agrees to Deal with Portland

The Portland Trailblazers seem destined to lose All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Meanwhile the Blazers met with former Maverick forward Al-Farouq Aminu and have agreed to terms. Aminu will sign a 4 year $30 million, a deal that may insert him into the starting small forward position that has been vacated by the trade departure of Nicholas Batum. Aminu is an interesting player, he’s still just 24 years old despite spending 5 years in the NBA. He stands at 6’9 and can knock down the occasional three pointer.

Players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, and Dwyane Wade are still out there. It’ll be interesting to see where the remaining free agents land.