At first glance, one might conclude that this year’s NBA Finals has been a waste of time; that nothing good will come of the San Antonio Spurs’ brutal beatdown of LeBron James’ Cleveland Cadavers. Let’s face it; the Finals have been an out and out disaster, thus far, for David Stern’s league. James has failed to impress in his first Finals appearance, the “boring” Spurs are on their way to their dynastic fourth championship in nine years, Game 2 was overshadowed by the anti-climatic (but still very, very good) finale of “The Sopranos” and the all important TV ratings have fallen to new lows. With the Spurs, apparently, here to stay, the NBA’s worst nightmare appears to be coming true.
Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, David Stern and the NBA decided to change the way the league was marketed, shifting from a team-oriented presentation of the league to a star-driven product. And, because of the likes of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, the league flourished. The NBA was in the convenient position of having its biggest stars on the best teams in some of America’s biggest media markets, and they cashed in big time.
However, as the league and the way the game is played changed, NBA marketing failed to adapt. With the exception of the Shaq/Kobe Lakers, the number of megastars on mega-teams in mega-markets dwindled to a number right around zero. Allen Iverson was too “gangsta,” and couldn’t be sold to mainstream White America, Vince Carter played in Canada, Kobe and Shaq morphed into bickering school girls, KG never won anything, and along came Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. Suddenly, the NBA became casualties to their own methodology. The best team in the league was led by a superstar who is about as flamboyant as a bowl of chicken noodle soup, while playing in a city that 90% of basketball fans could not locate on a map.
Stuck in their ways, the NBA continued to shove individual talents down our throats instead of shifting gears and highlighting the best teams in the league. The Association got lucky, last year, when D-Wade and Shaq took Miami to the Promised Land, but now, even last year’s Finals result seems like an aberration. LeBron’s Cavs are not, and may never be, quite ready to make the leap, Kobe is having a mental breakdown in L.A., Wade’s Heat are already on the decline, Carmelo Anthony is quickly becoming Iverson-like in that he has more urban street cred’ than mainstream appeal, and the starless San Antonio Spurs keep on winning. By the way, the Spurs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however…well, only if the NBA marketing team chooses to walk into that light. As I shuttered in horror of the idea of a Frenchman winning the NBA Finals MVP, an epiphany of epic proportions knocked me on my ailing back. Tony Parker: 2007 NBA Finals MVP may be the best scenario possible for the National Basketball Association.
Believe it or not, Tony P. is the biggest star on the Spurs roster. No, seriously, hear me out on this one. Tim Duncan may be, by far, the Spurs’ best player, but Duncan is about as marketable as Swiss cheese. Parker, on the other hand, has the look, has the engaging personality, has the awkward “more meat” Subway commercial, has the Hollywood (soon-to-be) trophy wife, has the hilarious rap album and, most importantly, has the game to be a HUGE star. In fact, I believe that if Parker grew up in France, Idaho not France, Europe this would have happened already.
Well, it is not too late to make Tony Parker a star. In this year’s playoffs, those who chose to pay attention saw Parker establish himself as quite possibly the most unguardable player in the league, and, to the surprise of many, TP turned just 25 years old less than a month ago. We often forget this because, when Parker came out of nowhere and struggled to take the reigns of the impending Spurs dynasty, he did so at Age 19. We quickly forgot this partly because he was so successful at such a young age, partly because, honestly, we did not care, and, in part, because the Spurs almost gave up on young Tony in favor of Jason Kidd following their 2003 Championship season (despite Parker arguably outplaying Kidd in that series). I mean, what is a smart franchise like San Antonio doing all but giving up on their 21-year-old point guard?
Anyway, it is now clear that Parker has the potential to become one of the all-time greats at point guard— right up there with Isaiah, Kidd and Nash— and a true asset to the NBA.
So, let’s hope Parker wins the Finals MVP, and the league realizes what they have in the Spurs’ point guard. Put Parker, not Tim Duncan, in those NBA-sponsored TV ads. Nike could capitalize and market Tony Parker as a true winner. Tony Parker should be selling cars, cell phones, croissants, anything and everything. We can even give him a hip nickname along the lines “D-Wade.” It’s TO-Park and the Spurs taking on Lebron and the Cavs. Live tonight on ABC!!!
Black and white #9 jerseys should be worn by children all over the world. This is my vision. Am I crazy? Maybe. Desperate would be a better word. Nevertheless, I look forward to Spurs games mainly because I enjoy watching Tony Parker play the game of basketball, and if you cared to notice, you would too. It may possibly seem a tad manufactured, but if marketed properly, Tony P. (or To-Park) could develop into one of the league’s biggest stars playing for the NBA’s best team.
Until then, the average basketball fan will continue not caring about the 4-time World Champions.