The Business of Sports


Steph Curry

Historic Month of April Basketball

On Wednesday, the nation witnessed the most historic last day of the NBA regular season in its 70th year of existence. Not only did Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors break an NBA best regular season record with its 73rd win to top the 95-96 Chicago Bulls 72 win season, but Kobe Bryant dropped 60 points in his last ever basketball game. Oh and if that wasn’t enough action, the Boston Celtics overcame a 26-point deficit in a playoff-impacting game against the Miami Heat.


Not many people believed that the Golden State Warriors were going to top the season they had last year … well that’s exactly what they did. They added the exclamation mark on Wednesday by surpassing Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls with the best ever regular season record of 73-9. Steph Curry hit yet another milestone, hitting 10 three-pointers to cross the 400 mark … the first player to ever do that. While Curry is the engine that makes the Warriors go, the other half of the “Splash Brothers” duo, Klay Thompson, finished the year with 276 of his own threes, giving them the best two shooters in the league.


There is a saying that goes “records are meant to be broken.” Well, many experts thought that 72-10 record held by the ’95-’96 Bulls was one of those records that never was going to be broken. The fact that the Warriors did it in their last game, at home, made it all that much more special. Any sport fan, basketball fan or not, should appreciate the level of which Steph Curry and the Warriors are performing … it has never been done before and may very well, never happen again.


On the very same night, Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba, ended his career in historic fashion, dropping 60 points on the Utah Jazz. Easily considered one of the best ever to play the game, Kobe played 20 great seasons, all with the Los Angeles Lakers. Announcing his retirement prior to the season, every game was a farewell to Kobe when he travelled to opposing arenas. Wednesday was the epic finale to the season-long Kobe farewell in true LA / Hollywood fashion. Twitter blew up with Kobe appreciation tweets, SnapChat had a geo-filter announcing it Black Mamba day … StubHub was selling tickets at $27,500 (and $900 to just get into the stadium).


Kobe’s career was eventful to say the least. From being one of the first players to be drafted right out of high school, to being accused of sexual assault, to winning 3 consecutive NBA championships, to being named an 18-time NBA All-Star … Kobe Bryant made a name for himself. He certainly had his critics who spoke out against his sexual assault allegations, to the way he conducted his retirement announcement, and even saying his 22-50 shooting performance in his last game was average. No matter what your view of Kobe Bryant is, what cannot be disputed is his impact on this generation of basketball fans, as he will forever be remembered as one of the best to ever play the game.

Kobe Bryant said good bye to the Los Angeles faithful, after completing his 20th and final NBA season on Wednesday night. He went on to score 60 points on 22-50 shooting.
Kobe Bryant said good-bye to the Los Angeles faithful, after completing his 20th and final NBA season on Wednesday night. He went on to score 60 points on 22-50 shooting.

Needless to say it’s been a very exciting month for basketball fans everywhere, as the college basketball season ended in dramatic fashion on April 4th, when Villanova upset UNC on a buzzer beater 77-74 in what was considered one of the best NCAA Championship finals ever. And today, the highly anticipated NBA playoffs begin.


While it is hard to imagine the NFL being replaced as the most popular league in this country, the NBA is certainly on its heels.

Why America Loves Steph Curry

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my college dorm room at Georgetown, watching this slender, baby-faced sophomore put a cinderella #10 seeded Davidson team on his back and upset my #2 seeded Georgetown Hoyas in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament in 2008. Stephen Curry scored 25 of his 30 points in the second half and rallied little Davidson from 17 points behind, past the Hoyas. While this upset would start a trend of early NCAA tournament heartbreak exits for the Hoyas, never would it be done in single-handed fashion as Curry managed to do it against JT III’s group in 2008.


A star was born.

Davidson's Curry celebrates after a three-pointer against Wisconsin during their NCAA basketball game in Detroit
Overlooked by each ACC school, Curry was given a shot by Davidson and he went on to break virtually every single NCAA 3-point record while leading Davidson to the Elite 8 in 2008.

Stephen Curry was overlooked by just about every power conference school in the country. Many ACC schools would not even invite him to walk on to their rosters, and Virginia Tech (where both of Steph’s parents excelled as student-athletes) didn’t even take a look at him. The beanpole guard out of Charlotte Christian School (NC) went on to Davidson, who took a chance on him. He proceeded to become the all-time leading scorer in Davidson basketball history (in just 3 years), was the 2009 NCAA Division 1 scoring leader, and the year before, broke the NCAA record for most 3-point field goals in a single season with 162.


People finally knew who Stephen Curry was.

Steph Curry ended a 40 year NBA championship drought for Golden State after having an MVP season for the Warriors in 2014-15. 

Taken 7th by the Golden State Warriors in the 2009 NBA Draft, Curry has electrified the NBA. Obviously his MVP and title-winning season last year followed up with unworldly 24-0 winning streak to begin this 2015-16 NBA season has highlighted his unprecedented NBA career. Yesterday, Steph Curry was named the 2015 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, beating double major winner Jordan Spieth and Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah.

American Pharoah (top) and Jordan Spieth (bottom), were the runner-ups in the 2015 AP Male Athlete of the Year voting after their own respective record breaking years.

While his stats, records and awards document his greatness, his immense popularity is far less tangible. Unlike most NBA greats (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James) who commonly rely on their height and athletic ability, Curry’s game relies on skills that he has developed: shooting, dribbling, and passing. His underdog story of not receiving any major scholarship offers coming out high school, being the third point guard taken in the 2009 draft, and a below-market contract extension three years ago, speaks to his perseverance and grit.


America likes rooting for the underdog.


His jersey is now the bestseller in the league. His team’s games get record television ratings at home and in opposing markets. He has built Under Armour into a $3 billion sportswear company. His 3-year-old daughter, Riley, has become a star in news conferences. As ESPN analyst Jalen Rose puts it, “Steph allows us into his living room. [America] is watching him on a national stage be a son, a dad, a husband, a father, a brother. And he does all of it while continuing to improve.”

Steph Curry and his 3-year old daughter, Riley, at a playoff postgame press conference. 

Steph Curry is human and that is why America loves him.

The 2015 ESPYS

On Wednesday evening in downtown Los Angeles at L.A. Live’s Microsoft Theater, ABC and ESPN put on the 23rd annual ESPY Award Show. Actor and comedian Joel McHale hosted the award show, and spared no one in the audience, with jokes about Donald Trump deporting Triple Crown jockey Victor Espoinoza to Mexico, Super Bowl runner-up Russell Wilson choosing to throw and not run the ball on the goal line against the Patriots, and the lack of action in the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. While McHale, like most previous ESPY hosts, set a tone of lightheartedness through comedy, the show simultaneously highlighted some stories that transcend sports to bigger issues.

Joel McHale hosted the 23rd ESPY's and took a number of digs on the world's top athletes in his opening monologue.
Joel McHale hosted the 23rd ESPY’s and took a number of digs on the world’s top athletes in his opening monologue.

One of these heavier stories was that of Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still and his cancer-fighting daughter, Leah. The two were honored for the Jimmy V Perseverance Award because of how they served as a beacon of hope for other families facing similar battles. In June 2014, Leah was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer that left her with a 50-50 chance of survival. Devon was unable to concentrate on football that summer and so the Bengals placed him on the practice squad, which meant Leah would still be covered by the team’s health insurance policy. Devon delivered a moving speech stating, “I always used to dream about how I was going to be able to show [Leah] so much about life, but in the five years I’ve been with [her], she has taught me more about life than I could ever do.”

Cincinnati Bengal Defensive Tackle Devon Still and his daughter Leah, who has been battling a rare form of pediatric cancer, were honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.
Cincinnati Bengal Defensive Tackle Devon Still and his daughter Leah, who has been battling a rare form of pediatric cancer, were honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.

Another moving story was that of Lauren Hill who was honored for the Best Moment. Hill was a Division III women’s basketball player at Mount St. Joseph’s who inspired people with her fight against brain cancer. Her dream was to just play in one college basketball game. The NCAA agreed to move Mt. St. Joseph’s opening game against Hiram College up by two weeks because her condition was deteriorating. Xavier University offered it’s 10,000 arena so more people could attend the game, and sure enough tickets sold out in less than an hour. Hill inspired people with her fight against brain cancer and helped raise over $1.5 million in cancer research before she lost her battle to the disease on April 10th. Her parents, Brent and Lisa Hill, accepted the award on her behalf.

Brent & Lisa Hill, parents of Lauren Hill, accept the award for Best Moment. Lauren was a Division III women's college basketball player who died of brain cancer but was able to play in Mount St. Joseph's opening game and help raise $1.5 million towards cancer research.
Brent & Lisa Hill, parents of Lauren Hill, accept the award for Best Moment. Lauren was a Division III women’s college basketball player who died of brain cancer but was able to play in Mount St. Joseph’s opening game and help raise $1.5 million towards cancer research.

As is tradition with the ESPY’s, the big moment of the award ceremony was the presentation of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The Arthur Ashe Award was awarded to Caitlyn Jenner – the transgendered woman formerly known as Bruce Jenner. Caitlyn Jenner delivered a very emotional speech where she thanked her family for unconditional support and urged acceptance for others who are transgendered. As you might imagine the award presentation was met with mixed responses and some controversy, but she received a standing ovation from the star studded audience after the 10-minute speech.

From the stage, Caitlyn Jenner thanked Diane Sawyer, who interviewed her in an interview on ABC in April and helped break the news to the world that she was becoming a woman. Noting her powerful celebrity platform, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion and current reality TV star vowed “to do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how transgender people are viewed and treated.” Bruce Jenner was the epitome of masculinity as the 1976 Decathlon Olympic Champion with big muscles and supreme athleticism, and so this announcement was all the more surprising. Coming on the heels of the gay marriage rights announcement, Caitlyn Jenner’s story and this award seemingly gained extra attention especially among social right activists.

Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce, was the 1976 Olympic Decathlon World Champion won the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.
Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce, was the 1976 Olympic Decathlon World Champion and won the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage after coming out as a transgendered woman.

The award was marked with controversy when reported Wednesday that Jenner’s representatives approached ESPN suggesting the network give her the Ashe award in exchange for plugs on her upcoming E! documentary series “I am Cait.” Allegedly, Jenner’s representatives approached ESPN, prior to the ABC interview with Diane Sawyer, forming an agreement to do the interview on ABC in exchange for the Arthur Ashe Award. Disney owns both ABC and ESPN.

Whether or not these reports are accurate, some have expressed disagreement with using the ESPY’s as a platform for such issues like gender identity and transgendered equality. And while these topics are controversial in nature, it seems by the rating numbers and the audience reaction, the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage was extremely well received. The three hour show averaged a 2.2 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 and 7.7 million viewers overall on the ABC stations from 8 to 11pm. These numbers more than tripled last year’s telecast on ESPN which did a demo rating of 1.1 and only about 2.2 million viewers.

The US Women's Soccer Team won the Best Team of the Year Award.
The US Women’s Soccer Team won the Best Team of the Year Award.

Other highlights of the show included the US Women’s Soccer team taking home the Best Team of the Year, Rob Gronkowski winning Best Comeback Athlete, Odell Beckham Jr’s one-handed catch taking Best Play, Steph Curry capturing Best Male Athlete and the Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX winning the Best Game Award.

The ESPY’s once again proved to the world the unifying effect sports have on society and how sports can effectively be used as a vehicle to bring attention to widespread global issues.

James vs. Curry: Magical Marketing Matchup

The NBA Finals this year features perhaps the most entertaining matchup since Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the 1980’s. LeBron James, the 4-time NBA MVP and the 2-time NBA Finals MVP is considered the best basketball player on the planet and certainly has the personality to back up his game. His polarizing presence has made him hated by many and a villain looking to dethrone MJ as the best ever. On the other side of the court is Stephen Curry. The humble, soft-spoken kid who got passed over by all the top college programs, to later prove everyone wrong and become the best shooter of the game’s generation, and perhaps of all-time.

While Cleveland and Golden State are not exactly big market basketball cities, the matchup of James vs. Curry is making this Final one of the more hyped matchups in recent years. It is good versus evil. Two kids both born in Akron, Ohio; one of whom exploded as a youth, was a can’t miss athletic specimen, went from the preps to the pros, and was taken #1 in the NBA draft, while the other was a skinny lanky kid who struggled to make his High School basketball team, was overlooked by almost all big college basketball programs, surprised everyone in the NCAA tourney at Davidson, and then exploded to win the 2014-15 NBA MVP.

Lebron James (left) at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and Steph Curry (right) at Charlotte Christian High School.
Lebron James (left) at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and Steph Curry (right) at Charlotte Christian High School.

The story of these two could not be any more different. One is a pure athlete, the other is a pure shooter. Many dislike one, while the other seems to be loved by all. One is supposed to win everything, whereas the other wasn’t supposed to win anything. And yet both were born in the very same town of Akron, Ohio and they meet for the first time in the NBA Finals.

The NBA, as a whole, does an extremely good job at marketing. Their International Global Marketing division has greatly contributed to the league expanding to Latin America, Europe and Asia through various exhibition events, leveraging marquee foreign players, and developing key strategic global partners.

Moreover, the League tends to be opportunistic with moments like this one. Golden State and Cleveland are not exactly huge markets, and yet they have already strategically branded this Final as “James versus Curry.” James and Curry are 1-2 in jersey sales this season, while Curry edged James for the most All-Star votes. Between the two of them, they have been mentioned 28.8 million times since October on Twitter.

Steph Curry has endorsement deals with Under Armour, Degree and Muscle Milk to only name a few.
Steph Curry has endorsement deals with Under Armour, Degree and Muscle Milk to only name a few.

Both are marketing machines, as James has deals with Nike, Kia, Samsung, among several others, and has his own TV production company. Meanwhile Curry has become one of the most sought-after endorsers in the game today, as he has deals with Under Armour, Muscle Milk and Degree. The baby-faced 25-year-old has about a dozen endorsements that he didn’t have when he was left off last year’s All-Star team and is pulling in about $3.5 million a year off the court.

Simply put, LeBron James and Stephen Curry are the two best in the game today. For that reason alone, the NBA Finals matchup this year is special. On the surface, they are polar opposites: personality, playing style, their paths to this point. And yet here they are, pitted against each other on the game’s largest stage.

The NBA Finals Game 1 is on tonight … and you better believe, people will be watching.

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