There's been a lot of buzz going around over rapper/entrepreneur Jay Z's foray into the sports marketing world. He's signed a couple of important athletes like Robinson Cano, Kevin Durant and others to his newly found Roc Nation Sports Agency. His street-smart ghetto mogul persona is the antithesis of someone like superagent Scott Boras, the prototypical conservative, granite-jawed white man who has reigned supreme in this field since the advent of the sports agent. But the question remains-is all the publicity just smoke and mirrors, or is there any substance to what he's done? What has been his legacy as minority owner of the Nets?
Jay Z's ownership in the Brooklyn Nets has been terribly overhyped. Before he was forced to divest his shares due to conflicting business interests, his stake was 1/50th of 1%. The most valuable part of the deal was the free courtside seats for him and his equally over-hyped, wigged-out, lip-syncing "chica plastica" wife Beyoncé, which he still gets to keep (nothing like mega-rich assholes getting freebies). Before we get into what he's gotten done, let's go over what he HASN'T accomplished as the bulbous-lipped aardvark face of the Nets franchise-
1) Luring A-List free agents to play in Brooklyn-
No. The revamping of the Nets' image, with new uniform colors, a brand new stadium in the heart of Brooklyn (easily accessible via public transportation-not a coincidence) and Jay Z sitting front row has done nothing to lure free agents of any magnitude to the franchise. J-Hova was supposed to get Lebron. That went busto. Instead of Dwight Howard, who had been screeching during his last two years in Orlando that he wanted to play in Brooklyn, the Nets were forced to sign the lead-footed, Frankensteinian Brook Lopez to a long-term contract. That's like getting stood up to the prom by a beautiful babe and having to take Matilda Gorilla as consolation.
They managed to re-sign point guard Darren Williams to a maximum level contract he clearly does not deserve, but only because he was already on the premises via one of the myriad of future-choking trades the Nets have partaken in, in which they have managed to trade away almost all of their first round draft picks for the next twenty five years. Though I'm sure he'll be glad to take all the credit, the only players of note the Nets have acquired were through a trade that netted three washed-up derelicts from Boston-Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry-three stinking carcasses the Celtics were dying to unload.
Gangster's Paradise-Russian thug Prokhorov and ex-crack dealer Jay Z lunching with the mayor of New York...
2) Creating "Buzz" to rival and supplant the Knicks-
Absolutely not. No one gives a shit about the Nets, and for good reason. Who the fuck wants to watch, much less pay to see, a bunch of tired, perpetually injured veterans well past their best years tank in the playoffs and totally tune out their coach against a beatable Chicago Bulls team totally depleted by injury and illness? Those self-aggrandizing billboards on West 34th street near Madison square Garden proclaiming their arrival in New York City didn't work. The Knicks suck, but the Nets are worse. Message to Mikhail Prokhorov-this ain't Russia. You can't fly over here on your private jet fakin' the funk with your champagne bottles and your $5,000-a-day intergalactic space whores talkin' about competing with the Knicks and usurping their fanbase. Here in NYC you must WIN SOMETHING BEFORE YOU START TALKING THAT BULLSHIT.
3) Being Jay Z-
Egomaniacs don't come larger than those in the rap world, and Jay Z takes the cake like no other. He's modeled himself as a mogul whose mere touch turns everything to gold. First of all, he's lucky to have survived the streets of Brooklyn. He could have easily been shot or done serious jail time for drug dealing, his previous profession that he still brags about both in interviews and on his tiresome rap albums. Second of all, his success can be chalked up to luck more than anything else. If Notorious B.I.G., Tupac and Big Pun had not met untimely deaths all around the same time, Jay Z would have been relegated to the Instructional League of Hip Hop. After those cats died, the door was left wide open and he stepped through due to fortuitous timing. If anything, his career trajectory exemplifies the importance of being in the right place at the right time, which can supersede talent and hard work more than people realize.
If it seems like I'm giving this multi-jillion dollar ghetto fabulous philanthropist short shrift, it's not because I'm "a hater", as the denizens of the inner city love accusing people who dare criticize public housing rats who make it big. It's because gangsters like Jay Z and Mikhail Prokhorov are beloved for one thing and one thing only-their lavish lifestyles, fuck how they made their money. Despite all their supposed business acumen, they can't street hustle their way to an NBA championship. Nor can they overspend their way to the top. Just ask the Steinbrenners, who as owners of the New York Yankees have spent over two billion dollars on player salaries over the last ten years and have one championship to show for it. ONE.
Putting together a championship caliber team takes knowledge, patience, the fine art of finagling the salary cap, and a willingness to develop talent. This last and most crucial aspect the Nets have shown absolutely no interest in. Just being Jay Z isn't enough to lure quality ballers to Brooklyn. Hell, I'd rather go to Flatbush Avenue for Junior's cheesecake than to play for the Nets, where I'd run the risk of tearing an ACL on a fast break tripping over Jay Z's humongous lips. The next time you see the Nets it will be exiting the playoffs in the early rounds. They are one injury to one of their aging stars from irrelevance, and given their collective lack of athleticism this will happen sooner rather than later.
Jay Z, the former crack dealer who dodged a major drug trafficking charge after getting pulled over on I-95 by Maryland State Troopers while headed to Baltimore with cocaine hidden in the sunroof of his car because the drug sniffing dogs of that particular police unit were tied up elsewhere, who shot his own brother for stealing his jewelry, whose own father succumbed to heroin addiction, paired with Russian Oligarch Mihkail Prokhorov, a man whose life story is full of the same type of brutish gangster behavior, albeit Russian style, to get the Nets to Brooklyn and have yet to fulfill even one iota of the promises they've made.
Jay Z certainly has done well off the publicity, as he is co-owner of the company that handles the Nets marketing and was allowed to christen the new Barclays Arena with a string of nine consecutive sold-out concerts. Prokhorov doesn't seem to give a flying fuck, either about the team or about how much money he has to pay in luxury tax, the percentages of which are so onerous it makes one wonder how one can spend so much money just to be mediocre. He hardly ever attends games and when he does, he watches from the sanctuary of his luxury suite high above the action like some detached feudal lord observing his serfs from the confines of his castle. But don't blame that on Jay Z. He's just happy being in the right place at the right time.
A young Jay Z during the crack epidemic of the late 1980's, sporting the ubiquitous drug dealer regalia of the time-