Sources told The Athletic that several Lakers and Nets players lost money over broken deals in Shanghai that involved sponsorship appearances. China was fully halting business with the NBA and its players. As The Athletic’s Bill Oram reported from Shenzhen, Kyle Kuzma was set to announce new sponsorship deals while in China, but they were scrapped once the team arrived in Shanghai because of the controversy. This coincides with what happened to the Rockets. Sources told The Athletic that at least two Houston players had sponsorship negotiations stall out in China after the impact of Morey’s post began to spiral.
Kuzma’s plans to announce additional sponsorship deals with Chinese companies were scrapped once the Lakers arrived on Tuesday and found themselves caught in the middle of a stalemate between the NBA and the Chinese government.
Yet there were some signs, leading into the Nets-Lakers rematch on Saturday in Shenzhen, that outrage from the Chinese government had begun to soften. The Chinese authorities, typically relentless in coercing American businesses to publicly apologize in such disputes, no longer appear quite so determined to make the N.B.A. grovel and squirm in fear of losing what has been conservatively estimated at $500 million in annual revenue.
“The presumption that there’s been an immediate loss — I think that number is much lower than the crazy numbers that have been thrown around,” said Rick Burton, a professor of sports management at Syracuse University’s Falk College. “The fact that a preseason game was pulled from being on air in China, or the fact that some sponsors have temporarily pulled out, I think that amount is relatively small. The bigger question is what’s the long-term ripple effect here.”
An extensive sponsor and media boycott of the Rockets soon spiraled. China’s punitive response could cost the Rockets around $25 million in sponsorship losses this season, according to one person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly. It didn’t take long for a number of rival teams to start besieging the league for estimates of how much they stand to lose, too. Yahoo Sports reported Wednesday that at least five unnamed teams fear that the $116 million salary cap projected for the 2020-21 season could drop by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
That group includes Curry’s teammate Klay Thompson, who earns an estimated $9 million per season from the Chinese brand Anta. Several players command between $2 million and $10 million annually from Chinese companies such as Anta, Li-Ning and Peak, according to two people familiar with shoe contract negotiations who were not authorized to discuss them publicly.
Dallas Maverick Center Boban Marjanovic, one of the NBA’s tallest players at 7 feet 3 inches, is reuniting with a former teammate to sell blankets for oversized humans like themselves to the public. Boban has signed on as “Chief Blanket Connoisseur” for the Big Blanket Co., the company announced Friday. Big Blanket was co-founded by Portland Trailblazer Anthony Tolliver, who played with Marjanovic when the two overlapped on the Detroit Pistons from 2017-2018.