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What do Ronaldinho and Jordan have in common?
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We all have talents that we develop at different periods of our life. For these two athletes is just happens to be that they are the best of two different, popular, lucrative sports.

Two Sundays ago, I dedicated the whole afternoon and part of the night to professional sports watching.

On TV, I watched Real Madrid vs. Barcelona (Real Madrid won 2-0), and during the evening I went to see the Raptors play against the Cavaliers at the Air Canada Center: the Raptors won 91 to 90. Being an exhibition game and all, LeBrone James was out almost half of the last quarter. But man, can that guy play basketball--I don't think he is as good as Jordan, but he could be.

I've always known that basketball players are tall, but it is a different experience to see them playing in person when you are used to see them on TV (I don't go to live games too often--I'm just not that into it). I was in awe of how tall and co-ordinated all the players are. Everything in the court looks small compared to them: the ball looks small; the hoop ring looks too low; the referees look like children running around; not surprisingly, slam dunks for these guys are a piece of cake; even Samuel L. Jackson looked tiny sitting on the court side seats (on a side note, I kept waiting for him to say something about all those "mother f***ing snakes in the court," but he didn't).

I played basketball when I was in high school and things would have been a lot different if the court was shrunken according to the average height of the players--by the way, my height is no excuse for my suckiness, but with a lower rim, even I could slam-dunk the orange sphere.

The fact that I was part of the team should be telling of Canadian high school basketball. If you try to compare it to US high school leagues, for the sake of argument, you'll be disappointed to find little in common. I mean, Shakeel O'neal and LeBrone James played high school ball, and I've never seen players of that quality anywhere in Ontario (not even in University varsity teams). I always argue that a top US high school team can probably beat a top Canadian University team. I don't know if this is true, but does anyone have proof to the contrary? (I apologize to my Waterloo ex-varsity player friends. You know who you are.)

It is obvious that in the world of basketball, height is king. In the world of soccer, though, height is not really an advantage. Look at Maradona, Pele, and Messi: short guys, but considered some of the best. When you are taller than the rest, though, you may have an advantage on set plays, like corner kicks, but it's a minor advantage.

You can mitigate the advantage by putting players who can read the game at all times. Position is all that there is to it to beat those tall guys looking to score. A perfect example to this tall vs. short duel is Cannavaro. He is one of the best defenders out there and has an unbelievable ability to read the game--this guy will out-position the best strikers in any league, and he's only 5'8" (the wiki entry has it wrong: 1.76 m is not 5' 9.5").

Good defenders is not the only obstacle to header scoring. Leaving aside the quality of the players, not everyone knows how to head the ball into the net. And even when you bring quality back into the equation, tallness doesn't guarantee heading goals into the net. In other words, heading accurately is a learned skill. Take for example Ronaldinho. He is currently the best player in the world right now, and his air game is actually not that strong. He hardly scores with the head, and he is, relatively speaking, a tall player (around 5' 10").

I don't know if Jordan plays soccer, but I will venture to say that he would not be scoring many header goals if put in a professional soccer game. However, he seems to be a natural athlete: he actually made a pro-baseball team, so who is to say that he wouldn't be any good at soccer. But for the purpose of this entry, one of Ronaldinho and Jordan's commonalities is their lack of header scoring ability. Nike, on the other hand, is probably the main reason for this two dudes to actually be in the same room at the same time--they are both professional Nike apparel wearers.

And so we arrive at the common denominator for this two individuals: Nike has made them super rich.

By the way, Nike is a terrific marketing company. If you've noticed their latest balance sheet, they don't manufacture anything, except a hunger for their products. (Well, they kind of do, but they are in the image business and not the shoe business.)

Take a look at these two lines in the statement: Goodwill $130.8 Million and Intangibles $405.5 Million. This is half a billion dollars ($536.3) worth of stuff. But what is it? No one really knows, but we call it the "brand." It is that swoosh thingy named after the Greek good "Nike" that we, as investors, are willing to pay money for.

It's the thought of Nike in your head that is worth half a billion dollars.

Quite remarkable, when you think about it. I say, give me brand or give me death. (And no, this brand is not about the constipation type of brand.)

12:59 AM | 0 comment(s) |


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