By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, we take a look at the push of Chinese shoes into the NBA, the Sonics, the Filipino Flash, the tragic side of the sweet science, and a stunning admission out of the U.S. speed skating team.
NBA star sponsors Chinese shoe company
As NBA players get ready for the upcoming season, the Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade has decided to leave Nike’s Jordan Brand. He will instead be sponsored by Chinese footwear maker Li-Ning. Wade was one of the top endorsers of Nike, but his new sponsorship deal includes the opportunity to create an apparel and footwear line called “Wade.”
Although Wade’s move appears to be an opportunity to make inroads into the Chinese market, Nike actually does more business in China than Li-Ning.
Li-Ning was established in 1999 by the Chinese Olympic gymnast of the same name. Ning won six medals at the 1984 Summer Olympics, which includes three gold medals.
The Chinese company has only 5 NBA players endorsing its shoes, but with Wade, the company will get an All-Star player and a member of the defending NBA Champions.
The company is named after its founder. The apparel/shoe line created by its biggest NBA star is named after him. Do you think the company is banking on name recognition?
Li Ning is not the only Chinese company sponsoring an NBA player. New Los Angeles Laker Steve Nash sports Luyou shoes. After 15 years of endorsing Nike, Nash switched allegiances to Luyou in 2011. Kevin Garnett wears ANTA and several other NBA players, including Jason Kidd, wear Peak.
The influx of Chinese shoe companies seeking to integrate with the NBA is a sign of the globalization of the NBA product. This is also occurring in tennis as number 2 ranked men’s player Novak Djokovic recently signed on with Japanese clothier Uniqlo. The strategy for these companies is to reach out to consumers outside of Asia through big-name, athlete endorsers.
It will be interesting to see if these companies catch on in America. Nike is still the dominant brand in the NBA and most other sports, but with more athletes popping up wearing brands from China, we could see a whole new trend developing. The one thing that may be an obstacle for these companies is the lack of distribution of its product to the States.
Many of us can see the shoes worn by NBA stars during games, but most of these brands are not at the local sporting goods stores. A Li-Ning retail store was established in Portland in 2010, but closed this past February, as competition with Nike and Adidas was difficult.
The NBA back in Seattle?
Speaking of the NBA, is it possible that we can look forward to the return of the SuperSonics? On Monday, Oct. 15, the King County Council and the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a final financing package for a new sports arena in the SoDo neighborhood, which City Councilmember Bruce Harrell helped shepherd through a controversial political process. With approval from the county and the city, an environmental impact statement is the next step to building a third sports complex in the SoDo area. The study will take about a year. Anyone else excited?
The Filipino Flash
Nonito Donaire is making a name for himself as one of the best Filipino boxers in the sport.
This past Saturday, he stopped his Japanese opponent, Toshiaki Nishioka, in the 9th round with a straight right. Donaire, the champion at 122 pounds, is now 30-1 and has not lost in 11 years. Of course, Donaire is second to Manny Pacquiao on the list of top Filipino boxers.
Donaire is smaller than Pacquiao as he fights at just 122 pounds, while Pacquiao fights at about 25 pounds heavier.
But like Pacquiao, Donaire has taken his boxing career and parlayed it into acting. Recently, Donaire starred in a Filipino movie, “Our Faith Decides.” It gave Donaire a shot at drama, requiring him to cry.
Donaire, 29, moved from the Philippines to pursue boxing. Now residing in the Bay Area, he has become a household name in the Philippines and his next step is to achieve the same status in America.
Speaking of Pacquiao, he is set to face Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time on Dec. 8.
This will be Pacquiao’s first match since coming off his stunning loss to Timothy Bradley in June. There is a push by Donaire’s management to put him on the same card as Pacquiao in December. Although it’s a short time to train for another fight, it would be a big coup for the Filipino Flash, as he could be the next big boxing star from the Philippines.
Remembering Duk Koo Kim
Nov. 13 will mark the ominous 30th anniversary of the death of South Korean boxer Kim Duk Koo. While younger people may not know, Kim fought 135-pound champ Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini in Las Vegas, Nev. Born into poverty and raised without a father, Kim was a natural fighter and boxing became a way out of his troubled life. With a pregnant fiancée back in South Korea, Kim took the match with Mancini to earn money for his new family.
Unfortunately, Kim never met his son.
In a brutal fight, Kim took 44 consecutive punches in one round. The fight ended in the 14th round when the referee mercifully stopped the contest, but it was too late. Kim collapsed and was immediately taken from the ring in a stretcher and rushed to a hospital for immediate surgery. Kim never regained consciousness and passed away 4 days after the fight due to bleeding in the brain. Kim’s mother flew from South Korea to be at her son’s side before he was taken off of life support.
The repercussions of the tragic event caused changes within the boxing industry designed to protect the health of the fighters. Boxing matches were shortened from 15 rounds to 12 and prefight medical checks were made more thorough.
But the personal strife from the death caused more tragedy. Kim’s mother committed suicide soon after her son’s death. The officiating referee later committed suicide as well.
Mancini, the fighter that won the match, fell into depression. He continued boxing, but he never returned to his top form. Recently, Mancini met Kim’s son as part of filming for a documentary on Mancini’s life. Perhaps a method of closure, the fight will always be a reminder of the barbaric nature of the sport nicknamed the sweet science.
Speed skater admits sabotage
U.S. speed skater Simon Cho admitted to tampering with an opponent’s skate prior to a 2011 international competition. Cho won a Bronze medal in short track in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Cho blames coach Jae Su Chun for pressuring him to sabotage the skate of a Canadian competitor in order to help the United States advance. Coach Chun asked Cho three times before the speed skater, who thought of Chun as a mentor, relented.
Coach Chun was placed on administrative leave from the U.S. team as skaters had filed grievances against him for physical, psychological, and verbal abuse. He has since resigned from his position.
During the competition, the United States and Canada shared a locker room area and Cho had the opportunity to take a skate and put it into a machine that misshaped its blade.
Subsequently, the skater that owned the skate had to pull out due to the issue caused by Cho.
Let this be a lesson. Cheating is never a good idea, even if you are being pressured into doing it. The investigation did not find Coach Chun guilty of influence over Cho, although Chun is now banned from any speed skating events through the 2014 Winter Olympics. Discipline for Cho is still pending as he may face a suspension or ban from the sport himself. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.