Led By Brett Yormark, the Nets Are Going Global

By Lenn Robbins | @lennrobbins
January 15, 2014

LONDON—Twenty years ago the average NBA salary was $1,288,728 and no player earned more than $6 million per season. This season there are five players on the Brooklyn Nets alone that will earn more than $12 million each.

While the Nets weren't thrilled about traveling to London for Thursday's game (3:00pm; YES) against the Atlanta Hawks, there is a method to the madness. It's as simple – and complicated - as this: As expenses, especially player salaries rise, teams need to find new sources of revenue.

That means thinking outside the box known as the United States.

So while most of the Nets were catching up on their sleep Wednesday morning, Brett Yormark, the CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, was brainstorming with other international sports' chiefs at a Leaders Sports Breakfast hosted by Bloomberg.

Joining Yormark was Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team Principal, Christian Horner, who overseas the most successful Formula One team in the world, and Arsenal Chief Commercial Officer, Tom Fox, whose football club just moved into first place in the Barclays Premier League with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa Monday night.

The three face similar and unique challenges in finding ways to raise more revenue without selling out the most important goal for any sports franchise: winning above all else.

Horner has the luxury of working in a sport that is truly global. The Formula One season begins March 14 in Australia and literally circles the globe (the US race is Oct. 31-Nov. 2 in Austin) and concludes Nov. 23 in Abu Dhabi.

Fox, along with team manager Arsene Wenger, prefers to develop talent rather than buy superstars, although Arsenal certainly has made some exorbitant acquisitions. The Gunners paid a 42.5 million pound transfer fee last summer to acquire German star Mesut Ozil.

Developing NBA superstars is a crapshoot. Greg Odom is a cautionary tale of injury. Andrew Bynum is a cautionary tale of the immaturity and unpredictability of some young players.

That's one reason Yormark, and other NBA chief executives, might have the most challenging task. In addition to the different dynamics of how to assemble a championship team (sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh), the global popularity of their sport pales in comparison to Formula One and soccer.

Red Bull is the title sponsor of the New York Red Bulls of the MLS. Formula One racing hosts races around the world, which allows Infiniti Red Bull to attract sponsors such as GEOX, Casio, AT&T, Siemens, Pirelli, and, of course, Infinity.

Arsenal went on an extensive Asian tour in 2013 to increase its popularity. Arsenal's roster is comprised of players from 13 nations. The Nets have three foreign players.

Professional basketball is a sports stepchild here. But that doesn't mean there isn't a market and an opportunity for more revenue for the NBA, the teams and the players themselves.

"The NBA has a vested interest to go global," said Yormark. "Players might not aspire to play in London, but they understand that, ultimately, it grows the enterprise. It certainly benefits them.

"They also understand, our players, independent of the league and the team, that they're becoming global profiles themselves. So if you think of my trip in August with Kevin Garnett to China, Kevin was there because he now endorses a Chinese sneaker, ANTA.

"They understand that it's incumbent upon them that if they want to grow their own personal enterprise, that they need to exploit the opportunities that are presented on a global basis and many are doing that.

"And they're getting that opportunity because the sport is going global. So there's an incredible trickle-down effect that the players are realizing.'' The Nets are realizing it.

"The growth of the international fans has come because of the international players," said forward Paul Pierce. "The more and more players you see from international parts of the world, the more the fan base of the NBA grows. That's really the biggest part of it; you have players from China, from Germany, from all over the world.

"When you have that type of culture in the NBA, it spreads. I can't even tell you how many players from different countries there are in the NBA. Just in this team alone, we have four, five, six. That says a lot about the way the game's going."

The game is going global. And the Brooklyn Nets are at the forefront of that endeavor.

Nets Central

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