The Los Angeles Lakers are seemingly more concerned about improving the brand of the franchise than the team itself. The trade for Jeremy Lin does make the team markedly better, but what the trade has done is make the team’s marketability better.
Besides his play on the court, Lin brings with him fans from the world’s most populated country. The Lakers now have the biggest piece of the basketball pie amongst the 1.36 billion people in China, going further in an attempt to solidify themselves as Asia’s favorite team.
Holding preseason games in China, and also regular visits from Kobe Bryant, have seen locals turnout in the thousands whenever anyone associated with the franchise is in town. The addition of Lin, even for only one season, will only increase the popularity of the franchise even further.
While the brand is at an all-time high in Asia, it’s also on the rise in terms of player hospitality. While Carmelo Anthony decided to take an extra year in New York, a big selling point for the Lakers was their commitment to players as they end their career. They have proven that they are prepared to look after their star players throughout their time in Los Angeles, something other teams like the Boston Celtics with Paul Pierce aren’t prepared to do.
Much was made of Bryant’s extension which to most is considered far too generous, but for the money it will bring in having Bryant on the team, the contract pales in comparison.
The Lakers could have offered Bryant less or even let him walk, but it would have crippled the brand, and the Buss family would be starting again with nothing. At least with Bryant, albeit old and past his prime, they are guaranteed a certain level of coverage and more importantly, income to manufacture a plan to come into effect when he retires.
Fans might not appreciate it, but even after a franchise-worst season in 2013-14, the Lakers brand is still riding high. The challenge now is to put together a team that can justify the popularity. Jim and Jeanie Buss have had a rough start to their careers at the very front of the office for the Lakers, but as long as the franchise is a one the public supports and gets behind, it won’t be long before the fans are blessed with a championship-caliber team.