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How Steph Curry Changed an Industry

By | NBA | No Comments

Many outsiders to the game of basketball don’t get just how big the shoe industry is. One does not simply buy a pair of basketball shoes that aren’t attached to a player’s name and brand. They almost don’t exist anymore, and the ones that do exist are almost intentionally poor products. They want you to ‘pay up’ for your favorite players shoe, and in this massive industry one guy changed everything with one meeting.

Curry is famous for playing a massive role in the recent changes to the way that NBA basketball is played, but he also played a massive role in how shoe companies evaluate and pitch young players. When Curry was approached by Nike for a potential shoe deal, he was given cookie cutter presentation that actually had the wrong name (Kevin Durant) on some of the slides.

Had Nike put more than 30 minutes of thought and effor into the pitch, they would have quickly realized that Curry is not your typical NBA player. His father played in the league for nearly two decades, he played the game differently than anyone else the league had ever seen, and would have been much more open to a unique presentation than the junk they through together.

Unimpressed, he left Nike without a deal. Under Armour, however, saw the potential in Curry as a young, flashy, genuinely unique potential superstar, and went all in on getting him to sign. They started by not only sending him loads of merch and offers, but also a young teammate that they knew had Curry’s ear, Kent Bazemore.

The unique approach worked, and eventually Bazemore and the Under Armour execs were able to convince Curry to think outside of the box and sign with UA. Fast forward years later and Curry is a 2 time champion and league MVP and that small shoe deal is now worth over $14 billion to the Under Armour brand.

A Change to the Industry’s Approach

Not only did this success story change the way that all of the major shoe brands attack marketing to young players, but it altered their marketing and production plans altogether. While Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and Under Armour had always paid out big bucks for the big name players, they were now paying out big bucks to lesser known players, and even teammates of young stars. Whatever it takes to catch the next Steph Curry.

What has resulted is a complete name-driven shoe industry. Aside from a few shoes produced specifically for department stores, if you want to buy a pair of basketball shoes from one of the big name companies, you are likely forced to buy a player’s shoe. The price you pay tends to be determined by a combination of quality and name. Durant, Lebron, Harden, and Curry have the largest brands in the industry and their shoes are made of considerably higher quality material and cost significantly more.

Case in point: if you were to go to the EastBay website today and look for an Adidas shoe the two they are going to push to you are James Harden and Damian Lillard. The Harden’s are made of slightly higher end materials, but performance wise most reviews would agree both shoes perform similarly. The Harden’s cost $160 and the Dame’s are on sale for $74.99.

This has repercussions that can be felt across the sport. Perhaps the biggest are felt at the high school level. Players are now being groomed by the shoe companies at the age of 15 and 16 years. College basketball is struggling to keep shoe execs out of the ears of their incoming freshman and current superstars, and money is being thrown around the AAU circuit like we have never seen before.

While I don’t think the structure of offering shoes backed solely by player sponsorship deals is necessarily flawed, the system itself is undoubtedly flawed. There has to be a way to keep agents and shoe reps away from these kids, and I think it has to start at the federal level. It seems that at this point, really cracking down on this behavior and the grown men and women behind it is the only way to slow it down..

Is Saquon Barkley the Best of the Bunch?

By | NCAA Football | No Comments

We have seen a pretty crazy run of running backs in the latest NFL drafts, and have actually had two top five backs in a row in Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette. In addition to those two big names, Jordan Howard, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Kareem Hunt, Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones, D’Onta Foreman, Samaje Perine, Derrick Henry, and several other backs have found instant success in the league. With that slew of names making immediate impacts, it’s hard to imagine the best is yet to come, but it is.

Saquon Barkley has several things in common with Elliott and Fournette, off the charts touchdown protection, playing on a power 5 title contender, and the highest non QB Heisman odds on Bovada. All three players averaged 6 yards per carry, and were able to show up in the biggest way in the biggest games.

Where Barkley separates himself from Elliott and Fournette is in the passing game. As good as we know Elliott is in pass protection, and even as a pass catcher, his production doesn’t whatsoever compare to that of Barkley. Saquon already has 3x the number of receiving yards that Elliott did in his final year at Ohio State, and the tape hints to him not yet fully reaching his potential in that category.

Barkley starts by catching everything… rarely if ever does Barkley let the ball get into his body, and never drops passes. Once he has the ball, he’s patient on screen plays, but is impossible to bring down in the open field. Asked recently who I think he compares to, I had to create a player. He runs a lot like Elliott, but is even shiftier in the hole, runs routes and makes first defenders miss like Theo Riddick, but has the suddenness and burst of Chris Thompson.

Rarely do I gloat this much about an incoming running back. I knew Elliott was a future all pro and worthy of a first down pick, but isn’t nearly the game changer that Barkley is. Fournette is a better back between the tackles, he along with Bell, may be the best back between the tackles. However, he’s a constant injury concern. I think Barkley will produce at the Le’Veon Bell, but his big play ability means he won’t need nearly the volume of touches Bell needs to produce his annual 2,200+ yards.

Is Saquon the Best of the Group?

Obviously it’s tough to say that he will be the best of the group, I will say he is clearly the best prospect of the group. That being said, the situation he is drafted into will have a major influence on the amount of early success he has.

If he were to end up in Cleveland or San Francisco, and face 8 man boxes all season, I don’t think you will see the production. The big plays will be there, but a lack of help will ensure that there are too many negative plays in between them. That being said, plug him onto a roster like Detroit, Seattle, Baltimore, New York, or even Philly, and I think you could see him immediately produce at an MVP level.

There is no doubt that he is a top 5 pick next April, and I think there is an extremely high likelihood he goes number 2 overall behind whatever quarterback teams are trading up for this offseason. The situation he lands himself in will 100% dictate the type of season he has, but whoever drafts him will have a versatile, game-changing running back.

Recapping the 2017 MLB Playoffs

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

This was a tremendous MLB playoff run, capped by what was, without a doubt, the most exciting world series in over a decade. It’s hard to imagine a better stretch of baseball, and fans around the world were clearly captivated as we witnessed some of the highest TV ratings the sport has ever seen. Perhaps the most impressive numbers in terms of ratings were just how large the margin was over the most popular programs on TV…  NFL Sunday and Monday night games.

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