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Personal Branding: What You Say Can Be Used Against You

Respect must be earned constantly.  Your personal brand is alive.  What you say can be used against you, especially if you live in the court of public opinion.

For years, I’d respected perennial NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett for his hard work, high achievement and defensive prowess.  I liked the Pierce/Garnett/Allen trio they assembled in Boston.  I preferred they win over Los Angeles in the 2008 NBA Finals.

I lost most of my respect for Kevin Garnett after his failed attempt to shout his sponsor’s slogan immediately after winning the 2008 NBA Championship as a Boston Celtic.  I found it shameless to pass off the commercial as authentic.  You can see that video here.

“I’m going to Disney World!” absolutely defined an era of championship-winning and became a pop culture reference, something about which Adidas’ “impossible is nothing” could never dream.  Apparently, having KG as your front man gurantees its dormancy.

2008 National Basketball Association Boston Celtic Garnett Anything Is Possible

Garnett tries, but fails, to shout "impossible is nothing!" (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

Today: reports that Garnett called Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva a “cancer patient” during a game.  By tweeting about it after the game, Villanueva is said to have violated an unwritten players’ code against sharing such on-court antics off the court.  Read the ESPN story here.  Read the Bleacher Report story here.

I’m no cheerleader for political correctness.  Garnett has every right to say whatever he wants whenever he ways, no matter how insensitive, childish or reckless it may be.  Even with a parent who’s a cancer survivor, I’m not offended by the remark.

What I do find offensive: “You are cancerous to your team and our league.”  Garnett claims this is what he actually said – in the middle of the game, in the “heat of the battle,” as a piece of trash talk.  Right.  I’m sure that line was preceded by “Excuse me, Charlie.  In a moment, I’ll commence talking trash, as they say, to get inside your head and take you out of your game.”  Given the chance to display some integrity, to own his words, Garnett passed.

Goes without saying: millions of people who are, in fact, cancer patients die every year, leaving tens of millions of family members, friends, colleagues and fellow cancer patients behind.  All of them are among your current, prospective and former brand advocates and adherents.

Worth remembering: your personal brand exists in real time across many media.  Video’s being shot.  “Codes” and other institutions are being violated (if not demolished).  Tweets are being retweeted.  Be prepared to own the things you do and say.

The bottom line: ultimately, production is all that counts to most NBA fans.  If Garnett continues to pour in 20 and grab 10 most nights, all will be forgiven.  20/10’s not enough to earn my respect, though, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Six Upsides to NBA Free Agency

On the eve of one of what could be the most significant free agency period in the history of the National Basketball Association, I’d like to share a few observable upsides.

The downsides are easy.  Free agency connotes “hired gun,” disloyal mercenary and money-grubbing whore.  OK, that last one was over the top, but the point remains: free agency can make players seem as though they’re simply chasing cash and/or the opportunity to win a championship.

Disfavor toward free agency also comes from Association purists, who like to see the same franchise send the same squad to the court year after year.  Larry Bird was a Boston Celtic.  Isaiah Thomas was a Detroit Piston.  John Stockton and Karl Malone were the Utah Jazz franchise … until the Mailman chased a championship by bandwagoning with a Los Angeles Lakers team that was surprisingly felled – no, crushed – by the Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals.

I can’t get into restricted and unrestricted free agency, salary caps, salary matching or any of the other mind-numbing nuances of NBA roster-building.  I’ll simply add, as open season on the NBA class of 2003 begins, that free agency is not all bad.

Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors, LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat, 2003, 2010, NBA, National Basketball Association, free agents, free agency

Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade - NBA Class of 2003 - Foundation for Huge Free Agent Market in 2010

1. Renders jerseys obsolete and requires the purchase of new jerseys.  I would never purchase, nor wear, an NBA jersey – never going to happen.  That said, hundreds of thousands of people around the world would – and do.  Players changing teams means more jersey sales.  Result: Goodwills and garage sales become littered with instantly “retro” gear – yours on the cheap!  Allen Iverson Nuggest jersey, anyone!?

2. Renders video games obsolete and requires the purchase of new editions.  No one wants to create new rookie players, much less shuffle rosters through trading, releasing or signing players.  It’s far easier just to buy this year’s release – especially if there have been substantial changes across the Association.  Don’t care about current rosters?  Just want to jack up some 3s and throw down some dunks?  BANG!  NBA Live 2007 will set you back just $0.59 on eBay.

3. Takes fans one step deeper into the process.  Video games have done this to some degree by providing the opportunity to coach teams and build franchises.  The combination of enhanced mainstream and niche media attention and roster dynamism have given fans interested in the NBA a deeper look into the relationships and negotiations between owners, GMs, coaches, agents and players.  More awareness and transparency generally results in deeper loyalty.

4. Enhances the soap opera element.  Let’s face it – professional sports are, in part, simply soap operas for men.  Deny it if you wish, but you’re accepting blindness in doing so.  More movement means more story lines means more drama.  I know I’m curious where everyone will land – and how.  I’m also curious how the new chemistry wherever changes take place will develop.  I’m also curious about the balance of power – where and how it’ll shift.  I also watch reality television – what can I say?

5. Adds more year-round interest to the game.  The NBA season now runs from around Halloween through mid-June, leaving only four months to fill with inter-season interest.  The draft helps, as does this free agency period.  New rosters take shape and next thing you know, they’re in camp for the new season.

6. Gives new hope to desperate fans.  The promising combination of the draft and free agency gives even the most dejected fan Chicago Cubs-like optimism for next season.  I’m all for that.

So as the league’s superstars prepare to entertain whatever offers and scenarios their agents can line up, I refuse to hearken back to the day when Zeke and Stockton were unwittingly competing for “world’s shortest shorts.”  Instead, I look forward to a new-look Association this fall.

Seriously, check out this list of free agents ranked (fanhouse.com)

Or, check out this list of free agents by team (espn.com)

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