The NBA is back! It seems like just yesterday that LeBron James and the Cavaliers were pulling off a Game 7 miracle, followed by owners throwing out all types of crazy money during a free agency period where the salary cap sky-rocketed 34%. The season officially kicks off tonight with a three game slate that features some of the game’s biggest stars (and will also compete with Game 1 of the World Series). What are some of the biggest storylines as the NBA kicks-off?
Can Anyone Beat Golden State?
Last year the Golden State Warriors marched through the regular season winning a league record 73 games. Despite the historic regular season run, Golden State had a tumultuous playoff ride needing three wins in a row against Oklahoma City to win the Western Conference championship before losing three in a row to the Cavaliers in the Finals. Over the summer Golden State significantly upgraded at the small forward position when they won the Kevin Durant summer sweepstakes. By adding one of the top players to a team that already featured Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, the Warriors have turned into the “Evil Empire.” Can anyone stop Golden State? The betting websites don’t seem to think so as they have made the Warriors a -150 favorite to win the championship. Not a line you usually see as the season starts.
In addition to watching Golden State’s team of all-stars, Nike and Under Armour will also be paying close attention as well. Steph Curry is Under Armour’s golden boy who has single handedly led the company’s rise in the basketball market. Now, Nike has one of their signature athletes in Kevin Durant on the same team and in the same market.
A day doesn’t go by without the NFL making headlines for its declining TV ratings. Last year the NBA was the recipient of year over year ratings increases on all four of its major networks (ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NBA TV) and the league only hopes this upward trend continues in the first year of it’s new, nine-year, $24 billion-dollar extension. In addition to seeing significantly enhanced linear and digital platforms with its partners, the NBA also announced the NBA Mobile View, which will allow league pass subscribers to stream games onto their phone which highlights the ability to watch a new “zoomed in view.” While the NBA will most likely suffer from cord-cutting, by working to increase their mobile viewing ability the league is taking a big step in the right direction.
Virtual Reality Heats Up
Everyone wants to get into Virtual Reality, but the NBA has been the most aggressive league when it comes to trying to incorporate the latest and greatest technology into its game. Last year, the NBA partnered with Turner Sports and NEXTVR to broadcast the opening night game between the Warriors and Pelicans. This year, the NBA and NEXTVR have committed to broadcasting one game a week in Virtual Reality as part of its NBA League Pass. The VR streaming kicks off this Thursday when the Sacramento Kings unveil the Golden 1 Center, their new state of the art arena.
Adidas Says Good-Bye
In the spring of 2015 Adidas announced that it would not pursue an extension to its official apparel deal with the NBA. Now, the company is in its last year of partnering with the NBA before Nike takes over the reins in an approximate $1 billion dollar deal spanning eight years. Before Adidas heads off into the sunset, they will surely get the added benefit of increased jersey sales from the free agent hoopla that saw two of the most popular NBA players switch teams in Kevin Durant (No. 8 in jersey sales) and Dwayne Wade (No. 14 in jersey sales) who returns home to Chicago. Adidas already began its transition from a league wide focus to an individual focus with its $200 million signing of James Harden last season, but this summer they also inked five of the top seven draft picks in the 2016 NBA draft. Adidas will be gone, but not forgotten in the NBA.
Jersey Sponsorship Deals
The 2.5 inch by 2.5 inch sponsorship patches won’t be seen on NBA jerseys until the 2017-18 season, but you should start to see an increased amount of teams begin to sign these sponsorship deals throughout the year. With the league looking to maximize revenues, the NBA Board of Governors approved the sale of jersey sponsorship patches last spring for a three year period. While teams have been carefully researching potential sponsors and the valuation of these patches, only two teams have actually signed deals. Philadelphia was the first team to sign a deal as they did so with StubHub in a deal worth a reported five million a year. Sacramento recently followed suit agreeing to a deal with Blue Diamond Growers, a local company headquartered in Sacramento. Similar to the 76ers the deal is worth $5 million a year, but this one also includes floor space and other ancillary benefits for the sponsor. These two teams combined to win 43 games last season, so it will certainly be interesting to see what more competitive, larger market teams can command for their sponsorship patches.