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adidas Basketball, my trip to Portland, OR

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on September 28, 2007

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett, Flicker photo

Basketball is a game, basketball is a business. To the casual player, the kid and the rec player lacing ’em up once or twice or more times a week, it’s a game, a place and time to run, cut, jump, sweat, dabble in skills, put the ball in the hoop more than they put the ball in the hoop. We’re touched by the business of it only when it’s time to buy some sneaks or dig into the wallet to get tickets to go down to The Garden, catch the Celts’ or some other local team somewhere else. But we all read that it’s a business, too. When Vince Carter is traded or Dallas doesn’t re-sign Nash or the Celts let go of Al Jefferson and half the team for KG (like a father ditching his kids), we hear the sad refrain from the departed: “it’s a business”, as if those words are the medicine that rids of them of some poison, the only way to survive, the only way to go on.

Business, from Roman times to the electron-quick 21st century, has been and is regarded by many (or most) as a necessary evil. I mean who wouldn’t rather lead a simpler life? At that intersection of game and mountains of money are corporations, the empires of evil-doing. The bottom line there is always “the bottom line”: return on the dollar, return for the investor, gaining market share and maximizing profit. Pounds of flesh and much more are given and gladly taken. But is there in that boneyard a beating heart, in that sewer a stream of fresh water, is there somewhere a new net and straight rim, a ball that bounces true and a team that plays the game right?

I just spent the last two days in Portland, Oregon at adidas running some skills’ clinics for their employees. I am telling you, the people there in the basketball arm of that company are into their hoops! As a game. Of course as a business, too, but as a game. As a place to run and cut and jump, make the extra pass, dig in and break up a 4-on-1 break, knockdown transition 3s, practice and play the game. From the head of their basketball operations to the some of the newest employees, they’re out there on the court, playing pick-up, playing in their soon-to-be formed adidas leagues, conducting and taking part in on-court clinics, hanging out long after the last screen leads to the last pass which leads to the winning bucket. Hanging out talkin’ hoops, tellin’ stories about what Bagley did to Manute on that Bridgeport playground, about what Majerus did to motivate players at a Runnin’ Utes’ practice, the smell of popcorn in The Palestra, off-season workouts at Loyola Marymount, about drills they did and drills they saw when they played or coached or hung-out at practices in high school and college and pro teams’ gyms, all over the world.

One of their top managers told me that at a recent meeting, Kevin Garnett (“KG”), perhaps their most visible endorser, said he wants to be and is associated with adidas because “adidas’s got soul”. If living and breathing and dreaming and playing the game gives you soul, then KG’s right, adidas has got it!

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