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Riding the Wizards Bench September

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Money - That's What I Want!

CWebb Aims To Help The Plan

Well, that's the official line, at least. He still wants lots of money, no doubt - and gets it. But he bailed on Nike when he felt that his shoe was priced too expensively. (At least, that's the public excuse. And for the moment, we'll take him at his word.) He looked around at possible partners for his shoe endorsement contract and played for a while in non-descript Converse basketball shoes (with some key identifiers marked over in black magic marker).

Eventually, he settled on Fila, whose star really started rising when they first signed Grant Hill to an endorsement contract. I think those of us who watch NBA games (at least in the U.S.) won't forget Hill's commercials, especially the ones last year about going to a Bill Laimbeer "No-More-Mr.-Nice-Guy" training camp. (Note that Fila's U.S. subsidiary is based in Maryland.)

Fila has put up a brief bio about CWebb, showing that he's now a part of their core advertising team. Hopefully, they'll put up examples of his ads and his shoe, as the info comes available. But this site seems a bit static to me, so don't put too much credence in finding it any time soon.

The New Commercials

Did you see the new CWebb Fila commercials in August? They played all month. I caught them during baseball and women's basketball games, and during ESPN SportsCenter. And they were cute, no doubt.

In the first one, you see CWebb trying to dunk on a rim, but he hits the front of a rim. You hear him grunt again, this time he jams it home. Then he jams it home one more time. Cut to a shot of his feet - and the new CWebb shoes - as he lands on the ground, while the announcer implores you to check out the shoes at Foot Action (a store). The camera then backs away and you realize that he's been dunking on a rim that's supposedly attached to the top of the Washington Monument. He goes for another run at the rim, and with a final shot of just the shoes, you hear him dunk it again.

A cute commercial; it definitely gets the shoes in your mind. But the second commercial is not about the shoes...

The second commercial is shot in black-and-white, with CWebb on a court with translucent white cloth blowing in "the wind" all around him. CWebb is doing a voice-over on some rather philosophical, almost meta-physical topics about how life treats you and how you need to fight back and reach a "mutual agreement" with life, even when you're unsuccessful. Some neat action shots of CWebb dribbling, passing behind his back, and dunking. (But definitely not free throw shooting.)

I wish I had written down what he said, but I never had paper near me when I saw the commercial. This one seemed stranger, but those of us familiar with CWebb know he's extremely intelligent and thoughtful and don't have a problem accepting him philosophizing like he does in the commercial. While the words seem strange for a shoe commercial (especially one that doesn't mention the shoes, and only flashes a Fila logo at the end), I think this one (in the small statistical sampling I know who saw it) played better with non-basketball fans. Don't ask me why, it just did. I guess Fila's advertisers knew what they were doing.

It seems these commercials are off the air now; hopefully, they will be replayed at the beginning of the season. (Or that they will be put online at the Fila site.)

His Money Comes From Other Places, Too

CWebb doesn't just earn money from his shoe endorsement, plus his $7.5M salary for next year (though his salary cap number is $9M). You've probably already read about his record company (Humility Records); he's spent part of the summer doing some promotional work for the first band he signed. He also appeared in a music video with Foxy Brown. He also does other promotional appearances, such as the anti-drug charity event he did in DC this month, which sometimes pay appearance fees to get celebrities out.

But did you know that he is going to be a comic book hero as well? While the Fly at "TSN" loves to put him down, I think it's a neat idea. Yeah, it's not a big money winner, but it's a very accessible way to get a positive message to boys who read such things. Nothing like pumping up the old personna. (When I find out who is going to publish it, I'll let you know.)

Refs Caught Cheating

This story first broke before the end of the regular season, and it had some immediate impacts. Those refs indicted in the first round of charges included some pretty senior (and quality) officials, and they were suspended with pay and removed from their officiating duties until the charges were cleared. That included missing the post-season.

Well, it turns out they were sorely tempted by money and were caught. The charges were pretty straightforward. NBA officials are provided by the league with first-class seating when flying to and from games. Some refs, in the past few years, have been exchanging their first-class seats for coach seats and pocketing the monetary difference between the two classes of seats. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

On the surface, no. Even the league doesn't have a problem with it. However, when you don't report the difference you pocket as income, it does become a problem. With the IRS. And to start with, the IRS got three officials off the bat: Henry Armstrong, Jess Kersey, and George Toliver. Mike Mathis is also awaiting trial, and several other refs are being targeted as well.

As a side note, did anyone notice that all three of these refs live in Virginia? Do a lot of NBA referees establish a permanent residence in Virginia? You'd think they'd go to a state with no income tax, at a minimum, such as Florida or Texas (not that they get to enjoy the warm winters, because they're traveling/working during that time). Just curious.

Long-Term Ramifications

Well, I think we've all heard of Jess Kersey - a well-respected referee on the court; the others are no different. Well, their careers are over. That means that new blood will need to replace them and any others that might eventually be nailed. As David Aldridge of ESPNet Sportszone writes, it's going to take some time to grow into this new generation of refs. We likely will even see a female ref or two next year, during the regular season. (Female refs were used in some preseason games, but none were signed for the regular season.)

So, in some ways, this is a curse and a blessing. It shakes up the officiating ranks a bit and hopefully brings on some new blood that isn't as endeared to the way things are currently done. (Especially when it comes to favoring winning teams and excessive superstar treatment.) I can stand some favoritism, but I believe in a fairly level playing field so that any team has a shot at winning. Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

wtf 18 September 1997

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