There has been a lot of talk lately about the value of a large market. Carmelo Anthony leaving Denver for New York! LeBron James leaving Cleveland for Miami!
(Actually, as Kevin Arnovitz points out, that last one hardly works ... Cleveland is the 17th biggest market, Miami 16th.)
Then I heard a story that puts all that to shame. How about Orem, Utah (population around 90,000), to Beijing (population around 22 million). That's the move Orien Greene just made. He has left the Utah Flash -- possibly just temporarily -- to join the Beijing Ducks for a playoff run.
If big markets have special value to players, Greene ought to be realizing that.
I asked Greene's agent, Sam Porter, if bigger markets really did help players earn more money. For instance, if Landry Fields had been drafted a pick or two earlier or later, by Indiana or Milwaukee, how would that affect his lifetime income. And how do things change with a move to Beijing? His reply:
I think in the NBA the market size is important but I think there are certainly a number of other factors that go into it.
You mentioned Landry Fields, obviously he is getting a lot of attention and doing some great media stuff because he is in NYC, but if the Knicks weren't winning and the team as a whole didn't have a buzz I don't think the market size would matter much for him. In other words if he was on the Knicks of two or three years ago I don't think you would see him in commercials or hear his name nearly as much. I think Fields' lifetime income can be much different if he stays on the Knicks for a large part of his career and the Knicks have some success. Obviously being part of a team that brings an NBA Championship to New York City would open up a wide variety of off-the-court endorsement and memorabilia opportunities.
You still see John Starks doing Knicks related appearances and being involved in shoe companies (Ektio) and you have to imagine that had he played in a smaller market he wouldn't have these opportunities.
With regards to Orien, it will be interesting to see what opportunities arise from his playing for Beijing. As I mentioned earlier I think winning will be the biggest factor, if he goes there and does well and the team wins I am confident that we will be presented with some off-the-court opportunities. Coming from the Utah Flash of the NBDL that will obviously be a major change. To my knowledge, there are really no off-the-court marketing or endorsement opportunities for players in the D-League.
Ultimately with any professional basketball player on-the-court success is the key to taking advantage of being in a big market. That said signing with Beijing will certainly give Orien the opportunity to make a name for himself in China. The city has a population of 22 million and basketball is already extremely popular there and the popularity is continually growing.