From players to owners
PARIS (George Eddy's International Show) - Star players becoming owners of pro teams is something we've seen more and more of over the last few years.
Michael Jordan is starting to get a feel for ownership as he makes better and better decisions in Charlotte and Magic Johnson is succeeding pretty well with the Dodgers in baseball with the hope of bringing NFL football back to Los Angeles in the near future.
David Beckham controls the future of pro soccer in Miami and a few years back Kobe Bryant owned a piece of the Milano basketball team.
Kobe and LeBron James are viable candidates to own NBA franchises when they retire and when you see the skyrocketing value of teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers, they would probably be making a smart business decision if they did!
In France, no fewer than four major stars of the French national team are giving back to French basketball by owning stock in four different teams. Tony Parker and Boris Diaw have become hands-on presidents and part owners of clubs in Lyon and Bordeaux.
A decade ago, Tony was a minority owner in Paris alongside his agent before selling his stake but now he has become president of Lyon-Villeurbanne, preparing intelligently the future of his career after his playing days are over. He's inspired by the methods of the San Antonio Spurs where he has learned a lot and his motto when taking over the team is "here, we are going to DO things before talking about them and not the contrary". So it's out with the pompous and blowing a lot of hot air and in with hard work and realism on a daily basis!
Parker's recruiting for next season looks top notch as he builds his team - with coach Pierre Vincent - around the French league's leading scorer and international, Edwin Jackson, who played in the NBA summer league and is fighting for a spot on France's roster for the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
During the last NBA lockout, Tony played for Lyon and Boris played for Bordeaux where it's been up and down for him as president. The club went from third to second division before dropping back down to third due to a lack of local support and the absence of a viable arena project. Boris had already injected some funds with Mickael Pietrus into his former team, Pau-Orthez, when they had some financial difficulties. The two had been champions of France there before going to the NBA.
Diaw is almost too good to be true as his faithfulness to the Bordeaux region will attest. He is the exemplary captain of the French national team, the current European champs, and he never takes a summer off. His critics would say that's because he's overweight and saves his efforts by playing in slow motion but his brillant play with the Spurs this season got him a big payday and a two-year contract worth around $15 million because Gregg Popovich knows the true value of his intelligent play and altruistic attitude.
Only Pop and Mike D'Antoni were able to draw the best from Boris in the hyper-individualistic world of the NBA.
Nicolas Batum and Nando De Colo have also invested in teams from the areas where they grew up. They play the role of "face of the franchise" in Caen and Orchies as minority owners but are not yet full-fledged presidents like Parker and Diaw.
Batum was in the gym in Caen when the local team (my former club in the 1980s) was beaten by a miracle shot in the deciding game which ruined their hopes of going from fourth to third division. Nicolas consoled his players and convinced them that they will go up next season. It's nice to see the gym in Caen full of spectators again like back in the glory days in the 1970s and 1980s.
De Colo was also disappointed to see his team in Orchies drop down from second to third division on point average but he is confident in the future thanks to a new 5,000 seat arena and incredible fan support in his cherished North-Pas de Calais region.
Batum and De Colo will both have increased duties on offense at the World Cup this summer due to Parker's absence. All four French players have taken their responsibilities seriously and shown immense generosity by giving back to their home country and I wouldn't be surprised if this doesn't become a trend with other star players.
Players like Mike and Florent Pietrus, Mike Gelabale, Kevin Seraphin, Ronny Turiaf and Johan Petro, just to name a few, have done a lot over the last few years to promote basketball in Guadeloupe, French Guinea, Reunion island and Martinique, for example.
I've seen all these young men grow up over the years and their generosity makes France proud of them. The next step would be for these young investors to turn a profit on their investment which would show that French basketball, as a whole, is really progressing!
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