WASHINGTON -- Mark Cuban has "crazy" thoughts on drawing attention.
Before last week’s matchup between his Dallas Mavericks and the Washington Wizards, the outspoken entrepreneur and NBA owner spoke with NBC Sports Washington on several topics including NBA ratings should LeBron James not participate in the playoffs, anonymity among NFL and NHL players, and why elite basketball recruits are "crazy" if they don't bypass college for the G-League.
Cuban discussed the concept of dodging college basketball during a discussion on about another sport.
The new Alliance of American Football league generated some decent buzz at launch. The “Shark Tank” star believes the AAF could work if the league avoids becoming the NFL's "stepchild" and instead develops players cast aside by the NFL and then sells player contracts back to the NFL in a way similar to the international basketball system.
“All that falls apart unless people show up to the games,” Cuban warns.
The topic then shifted to whether the G-League, the NBA’s minor league organization, could receive similar attention. “We will,” Cuban stated confidently.
He then offered a rather specific and entrepreneurial reason citing Lavar Ball and a 5-foot-7 high school basketball player from central Florida Cuban follows on social media.
Julian Newman, a member of the 2020 recruiting class, became a viral video sensation starting at eight years old.
“He’s got a few 100,000 followers on Instagram, and after every one of his games, he’s selling merchandise. He’s his own little business,” said an impressed Cuban. “I don’t know if he’s good enough to make the NBA… but people recognize what the Ball’s did with Big Baller Brand and what others have done. There are building businesses and brands around themselves.”
The G-League is where Cuban sees basketball, branding and capitalism colliding.
In October the G-League, which is comprised of 28 teams including the Wizards’ Capital City Go-Go affiliate, announced it would begin offering "select contracts" worth $125,000 annually starting with the 2019-20 season to prospects not yet eligible for the NBA. Often these prospects join the college ranks for a “one-and-done” season.
Cuban sees another path for those headliners armed with a social media following.
“If you’re a strong enough brand and a good enough basketball player, you’re crazy I think if you don’t take the [$125,000 salary] in the NBA G-League (because) they can also do their own marketing deals. They’re not constrained by the NBA players association.”
Duke’s Zion Williamson, the consensus no. 1 overall prospect ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft and a YouTube sensation before stepping on campus, suffered a knee injury last month. The episode sparked a new round of debate over the restrictions of paying college athletes.
“Pick a very popular player that has a couple of million Instagram followers,” Cuban said. “You can go right to the G-League and probably sign a multi-million shoe deal. Why wouldn’t you do that instead of going to college? Because you’re going to play against better players. You don’t have the ridiculous NCAA rules that say you can only practice X number of hours against your teammates. You can only spend so much time with your coaches. You can’t earn any extra money.”
Cuban said players joining the Texas Legends, the Mavericks’ G-League team, would receive help with finding an appropriate education path should they desire. This “Snapchat generation” would also get paid.
“They already have followings,” Cuban said. “They can sell merchandise. They can do marketing. They are already Instagram and online influencers. They can finally get paid for that. … If by chance you ‘re not good enough for the NBA, at least you don’t find yourself going from none-and-done to one-and-done to two-and-done to three-and-done to never-and-done and not making a penny. The world has changed.”
The NBA may be on the verge of changing in a rather profound way starting next month.
The playoffs have included three-time NBA champion LeBron James, 34, each year since 2006. Barring a miracle by James’ Los Angeles Lakers, that streak ends this season. Not having the sport’s biggest star likely negatively affects television ratings.
Cuban pushed back on such thinking.
“Not that big a hit. The good news/bad news is – and this applies to every player no matter who – father time is undefeated and fans recognize that, and there are always new guys coming up that fans get interested in. That’s been the nature of the beast. People said we’d never replace Michael Jordan and it happened," Cuban said.
Even without James, several famous stars with massive q-ratings remain including Stephen Curry and 2019 MVP favorites James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“The NBA is more of a talent driven league, and the NFL is more of a league driven league,” said Cuban. He put the National Hockey League on the NFL’s side of the aisle.
“I couldn’t name you who the best player in the NHL if it’s not Sidney Crosby. I heard someone say (Edmonton forward and two-time NHL scoring leader) Connor McDavid. I don’t know who that is or where he plays.
“With football, if the entire Redskins’ team just happened to be in the arena here and they said (they were) football players, and you could tell by their size, I don’t know if I could name anybody anymore,” Cuban said. “What was the guy’s name, Griffith, that was the quarterback from Baylor?”
Do you mean Robert Griffin III, Mark?.
“Yeah, RG3,” Cuban continued. “That’s the last guy I could name that played for the Redskins.”
Now that's a guy who was all in for generating attention.
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