The NBA doesn't take lightly talk of a supposed conspiracy theory that brought the Lakers and 76ers together in the NBA Finals.
"The bottom line is about making money," Milwaukee Bucks star guard Ray Allen said during the Eastern Conference finals. On Tuesday, the NBA slapped Allen, the Bucks and Coach George Karl with a combined $85,000 for Allen's comments.
But it is true that NBC likely will see higher ratings given that the NBA Finals will feature arguably the league's top three players in Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, and the Lakers and Sixers represent the country's second and fourth largest television markets, respectively. And ratings remain an important yardstick in measuring the value of future broadcast rights negotiations as the NBA will head into its final season of a four-year, $2.3 billion deal with NBC and Turner Sports.
But if Allen, whose Bucks play in the country's No. 33 market, was thinking the league would cash in immediately on a Los Angeles-Philadelphia final, he was wrong, according to former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson.
"There is little financial benefit in the matchup of the teams," said Pilson, now president of Pilson Communications, a television consulting firm. "Ratings are a factor, but the 'conspiracy theory' misses the whole point. It has nothing to do with a great matchup, it has to do with the total number of games. NBC would trade a great matchup that's a sweep in a flash for a bad match up that goes seven games."
The difference in advertising revenue between a four-game series and a seven-game series would cost NBC between $25 million and $35 million, Pilson said. So perhaps the true conspiracy would be if this year's series goes the distance.
"If anything, I'm the one to blame for letting it go on too long," NBA commissioner David Stern told reporters Wednesday before Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles. "We, as a league, have to step up and be more diligent to address these concerns. We just can't take it as a joke that the league is involved in some sort of illegal criminal conspiracy."
Of course, the NBA already knows having a championship series with teams from two of the largest television markets in the country doesn't hurt either.
Los Angeles and Philadelphia rank Nos. 2 and 4, making it the 13th time in the past 15 years that the NBA Finals have included teams from at least one of the nation's four largest markets. Since the 1980s, only the 1991 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Chicago Bulls offered television a better market matchup.
On the block
Who's got two?
Tickets won't come cheaply for anyone looking for a last-minute buy for the NBA Finals.
The going rate for lower level seats, below the luxury boxes, are going for $500 to $3,000 apiece for Wednesday night's Game 1 at the Staples Center, according to Los Angeles ticket broker Barry Rudin of Barry's Ticket Service. Upper-level seats can be had for between $200 to $350 each.
The toughest seat in the house is getting one of the 127 floor seats. Patrons paid $1,350 per game to sit near Jack Nicholson during the regular season, but needed to pony up $1,450 for the playoffs. Rudin predicted those seats would fetch at least $10,000 apiece through ticket brokers or scalpers.
"Floor seats don't really recirculate," said Rudin, who estimated that no more than 20 floor seats would be available for either of the first two games. "The people either go or they don't and those people don't necessarily need to sell because they don't need the money."
Rudin said his company has made almost as much in the Lakers' first six playoff games this season as it made in the 10 playoff games the team played before reaching the Finals a year ago.
"Home and Away" Champion jerseys by Torn Apparel.
Almost a year and a half ago, 16-year-old Matt Steichen of Carol Stream, Ill., woke up and started packing for his trip to Atlanta for Super Bowl XXXIV. "I got out of bed and had the (Eddie George and Issac Bruce) jerseys just sitting there," Steichen said. So he took some safety pins and made a half-Titans, half-Rams jersey. Fans took a liking to his idea.
This year, Steichen headed to Tampa, Fla., for Super Bowl XXXV with a handful of Ravens-Giants combo jerseys. It was there where he ran into rapper Nelly at a mall. The odds of that happening? "About a bajillion to one," Steichen said. Nelly took a liking to the jersey and asked Steichen for the shirt off his back. Steichen gave Nelly an extra combo jersey, which the rapper wore during the game's halftime show.
That proved to be a big break. Last Monday, Steichen and his father, Craig, negotiated a deal with Champion and the NBA to sell Lakers and 76ers jerseys for the NBA Finals. It was last minute work. On Tuesday, three seamstresses stitched 200 Lakers combo (home and away) jerseys available with either Shaquille O'Neal or Kobe Bryant's name and number.
An Iverson combo jersey also will be available by Sunday, in time for Game 3 in Philadelphia. There also are plans to make Matt Steichen's original creation, the "I was there" jerseys featuring halves of a L.A. and Philly jersey that will take the "LAK" from the Lakers and the "ERS" from the Sixers.
"We lucked out that the 76ers won," Craig Steichen said. "If the Bucks won, the jersey would have read, 'LAKUCS.' "
Don't ask what would have happened if the Spurs played the Bucks.
The jerseys will cost $75 and can be purchased at both arenas, and eventually on NBA.com and at the NBA Store in New York.
Image is everything
Last year, Street & Smith's Annual College Preview magazine inadvertently used a picture of 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel on its cover instead of Jesse Palmer. To their defense, both played for the University of Florida, and both wore No. 7. This year, Lindy's college football preview had 42 different college regional magazine covers and missed the mark on one of them.
One Big Ten version was supposed to feature Heisman Trophy hopeful Damien Anderson of Northwestern, but instead has a picture of wide receiver Teddy Johnson. While Lindy's can't claim a numerical error Anderson wears No. 20 and Johnson, No. 18 both are listed at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds.
"It was a (profile) shot and the photographer sent it in marked 'Damien Anderson,' " Lindy's publisher Lindy Davis said. "He's our (Big Ten) offensive player of the year inside, and thank God we got that picture right. But the cover shot was kind of a fluke." Davis said there are about 5,000 football previews with the Anderson error on the cover. The rest of the Chicagoland college football previews feature Notre Dame players on the cover, Davis said.
Said Boysen Anderson, the star running back's father: "I think it might warrant a change in the cover. There's probably a lot of Northwestern fans somewhat upset about it."
Image is everything II
|Damien Anderson's (right) elusive moves made him Lindy's pick for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, but teammate Teddy Johnson got frontpage play.|
Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga agreed to sell the Florida Panthers on Tuesday for a reported $101 million to an ownership group that includes Bernie Kosar, the former University of Miami and NFL quarterback.
In a recent Harris Interactive poll on the favorability of selected sports owners, Huizenga received mixed reviews. Of the 15,881 people surveyed nationwide in May, 54 percent of those who were aware of Huizenga gave him a favorable rating.
Paul Allen, the owner of the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks; Red McCombs, who owns the Minnesota Vikings; and Lamar Hunt, who has a sports franchise stable that include the Kansas City Chiefs and two MLS teams, were among the most popular sports team owners, according to Shawn Rife of Harris Interactive.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's 69 percent favorability suggests that people like an owner who shows he's a rebel and a fan. Not surprisingly, Yankees owner Steinbrenner is by far the least popular, though he is among the most well-known.
Straight from the horse's mouth
|Wayne Huizenga continues to dissolve his sports investments with Tuesday's sale of the Florida Panthers.|
When Bill "Spaceman" Lee pulled into Bristol this week for a local card show, we couldn't resist giving him an open mic. After all, this is the man who called the ballpark "a church," Don Zimmer "a designated gerbil" and claimed he smoked marijuana with George W. Bush in 1973.
On contraction: "Hasn't anybody read that the universe is expanding. There's no way to contract."
On Bobbleheads: "Never underestimate the ignorance of the American public. We are nothing but a bunch of junkie magpies that will buy anything with silver. When I looked at the DNA strand and I found out that the slime mold has almost the exact same DNA as a human being, I knew that we're not that far removed."
On the powerful owners: "Alexander the Great said, 'Control the high ground.' (Atlanta Braves owner Ted) Turner was the first to go up with the satellite and that's the high ground. I can't wait until Ted Turner's satellite crashes into George Steinbrenner's satellite."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at email@example.com.
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