World Cup Win For US Women
July 9, 2015
Within the World Cup world, it was an epic performance. Two goals in the first five minutes, four goals in the first 16 minutes. Five overall for the night in a 5-2 World Cup victory for the American women over Japan in front of over 53,000 exuberant fans in Vancouver.
I was one of the reported 23 millions viewers who watched the game on TV. My problem was I was about 17 minutes late. I did a triple-take at the scoreboard when I turned the TV on. I figured I might miss one goal, but four? And three by one player, the country’s new soccer hero, Carli Lloyd.
Statistically, it was the highest rating and largest audience for any U.S. World Cup match in U.S. television history. I read that the TV rating was similar to the ratings of the recently concluded NBA Finals. Viewers watched the US team win the nation’s third Cup ever, its first Cup victory since 1999.
Carli Lloyd at the World Cup win by the US women
The 16 year drought is over. Considering the interest this team generated, there is a chance the victory will give the sport another shot in the arm in the United States. Historically, that has not been the case. Attempts to build on the earlier wins with the inauguration of a professional league have not been sustained. It is clear however that these earlier World Cups did inject some enthusiasm for the game at the youth level.
No More Glitter For The Lakers
It was not all that long ago when the Los Angeles Lakers were the glamor franchise of the NBA. They were perennial winners. They had the biggest stars. They played in Hollywood in front of stars and there truly was an aura to the Lakers that made them the number one destination for free agents. They had a trend-setting owner with Jerry Buss and a talented front office led by Jerry West. The franchise never rebuilt, it just reloaded. They stayed on top.
Those days are long gone. Their lone star, Kobe Bryant, has been in the league 18 years now. His numerous season-ending injuries have kept him off the floor for large parts of the past few seasons. While Bryant rehabs, his immense salary eats up a large chunk of the Lakers salary cap money. Free agent seasons have come and gone in recent years and it is beginning to look like the rumors out there about players not wanting to play with Kobe are actually true.
The Lakers entered free agency with plenty of money to offer the free agents. They needed a scorer with post presence. Back when Buss and West were running things, the Lakers would have gotten their identified targets. Again, those days are gone.
Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ legacy
The biggest prizes this year included LaMarcus Aldridge, a Portland free agent who would have been the perfect fit. Current ownership and management brought Aldridge in for a visit. It was the power forward’s first stop on his mini-tour of prospective employers. Aldridge reacted so poorly to the Lakers presentation that he immediately eliminated them from consideration. Reports are out there that he and Kobe did not have the best of conversations during the visit.
And then there was Cleveland’s Kevin Love. He played at UCLA, and was an available free agent but he re-signed with his original team without even speaking with the Lakers.
How could the Lakers have fallen so far? I believe they are selling a tradition and heritage from the past that is irrelevant to younger players. San Antonio has been a dynasty in recent years, Miami preceded them. Golden State won the championship this year and Cleveland might have won without injuries. These are the new glamor teams. The Lakers needed to present an exciting future.
Aldridge’s people stated that the Lakers attempted to sell the allure of Hollywood, endorsements and branding. The reality in the game now is that the game’s stars do not need to reside or play in large markets. The endorsement leader of today’s market is LeBron James and he plays in Cleveland. Kevin Durant is next, and he plays in Oklahoma City. Steph Curry has multiple endorsements playing in the Bay Area.
Aldridge wanted to talk about basketball, not endorsements or past titles.
Back to Kobe. Yes, he is a beloved star in Los Angeles. The Lakers are his team. He has the power and it seems like he is holding the franchise hostage. Bryant is very critical of his teammates. He clearly wants to make himself the focus of the team., even when he is not on the court. Ownership appears to be determined to allow Bryant to have a graceful exit and honor his legacy in that they pay him in a way that prevents rebuilding and allows him to believe he is as dominant as he was fifteen years ago.
As long as the Lakers live in the past and it remains the Kobe’s team, it will be impossible to attract quality free agents. And the Western Conference is loaded. I do not see any quick fixes.