There’s plenty of things to like if you’re the Nets and you’ve just acquired D’Angelo Russell.
Everybody from Sean Marks to Kenny Atkinson on the basketball side and Brett Yormark on the business side believe Russell is the perfect player for Brooklyn, basketball because of his All-Star potential on the court, and business because of his marketing potential in the most hip city in the world.
In short, the NBA is a star-driven league and D-Loading is their star.
The Nets need to attract the younger generation and millennials in order to build a legitimate fanbase. Yes, you can believe that if you build good basketball in New York City, people will show up regardless of age.
That being said, millennials —dare we include the hipsters?— need a new option, some new excitement. Most older fans grew up in New York without an option. The Nets played in New York until the 70’s when they moved to New Jersey. The only option was the Knicks.
Unlike then, the younger generation of hoop fans in New York have an option. The game is growing and more people are watching. And the Knicks are bound up in daily controversy. One star wants out. The other expressed his displeasure at the way he was being treated.
So why not go with a hip, trendy team like the Nets? The colors are black and white. Black will always be the new black. The music at Barclays is a modern hip-hop vibe that make the bass shake the place. The food is all Brooklyn Eats. Nets games are much more affordable than Knicks games.
Need I say more to make my case for a younger crowd? It’s obvious Yormark and the Nets marketeers need a star to build a fanbase. Enter D’Angelo Russell, the fashion plate who already knows how to Hollywood and now will learn how to Brooklyn.
He’s 21-years-old with the flashy looks – the hair, the outfits, the reflective sunglasses. That ‘ice in my veins’ swagger is the type of stuff that (most) NBA fans love.
“He creates a lot of talk value for us. With fans, we hear it on social media platforms and just generally speaking with ticket sellers and buyers. That’s good,” Brett Yormark openly told The Post last week. “That’s good, right? We want to create a conversation with your fans, and he’s helped do that.”
The President of YES, who’s got to drive up ratings, likes Russell too. YES parent, FOX Sports, made a big investment in the team last year, adding $30 million in local rights fees to the Nets coffers. They need to make that worthwhile.
“The NBA is a star-driven league, a celebrity league. It taps into popular culture,” YES Network president Jon Litner told the Post. “The combination of tremendous athletic talent with celebrity, it’s a real positive, no different than Russell Westbrook, who has an affinity for clothes but has a tremendous game on the court.”
And there’s this ... and it’s important. Do NOT expect the Nets to bring on another star-quality player anytime soon. Marks has said he doesn’t expect to go after the established, unrestricted free agents until his strategic plan is a lot further along, like after the Nets make the playoffs.
“Not really. For us, it was just about understanding the league and what was going to be best for us, now and heading into the future,” he told beat writers at the Allen Crabbe introduction. “If there are guys we really wanted to go after, whether they’re restricted or unrestricted, we’ll hopefully make that pitch and get an opportunity to sit in front of them and go after it.”
Get it? The “future.” For now, he’s it.
The test, of course, will come when the games start. Kenny Atkinson and his staff are not immune to the need for star quality, but they have to put together a team.
He WILL be their biggest test. Lots of hopes, lots of bucks riding on him. So, they hope, a star is born in Brooklyn. Many have been.
Russell isn’t the only magnet for drawing younger fans. The team makeup works well for millennials too. The average age of the team is 25. They’re mostly young guys who word hard and make you want to root for them.
Not to mention Jeremy Lin, who has one of the biggest followings in the NBA and the WORLD. The Nets lost out on his lure last year when he missed 46 games with that hamstring (during which, he too, displayed a cool fashion sense on the bench — still love those glasses!) Lin knows about swagger too as evidenced by his statements that no matter if people think the Nets will “suck,” they’re making the playoffs.
So, Yormark is a busy man with the Nets again.
Can translate it all translate onto the court? Ultimately, that’s how they’ll gain more fans. In the meantime, from a business and basketball perspective, D’Angelo Russell is that guy that will bring the target market into the arena. Hopefully the rest will speak for itself.
And none of it is lost on him.
“Yeah,” he said when asked if he wants to be the face of the franchise. “I can't wait to get this team back where it's supposed to be.”
- Developing Nets’ Russell Into A Superstar Begins Now - Steve Lichtenstein - WFAN