If you experienced the emotional lift of the Saints' first Super Bowl victory or sense the region's current positive morale, you know how shared joy and team success can affect citizens’ self-image and civic pride. Conversely, something as disheartening to our global image may occur, should NBA international superstar Anthony Davis leave the New Orleans Pelicans in search of his “Legacy over Money.” We worry our leadership, public and private, believes this to be just a sports story, missing the significant economic consequences if the potential best player in the world’s No. 1 Spectator Sport should leave us.
Speculation to where AD might move has been a major national sports story since Davis changed representation, joining LeBron James’ Clutch Agency. This event ignited continuous publicity nationally, but little in the New Orleans area, where The Washington Post noted, “The NBA isn’t big; yet Davis is huge everywhere else.”
What are the implications for small-market New Orleans? Globally, our most famous resident may be leaving, and yet we as fans, citizens, businesses and members of the tourism industry in the city, state, and region have little or no response? Just entering his prime, Anthony Davis deserves much better; and he should become the vibrant, multicultural face of New Orleans and Louisiana. By reputation, New Orleans is an iconic international city; in truth, we rank nationally as only the 51st media market. Thus, we must utilize all our marketable assets to prosper.
Framed against the long-term trends of globalism, international trade, and increasing leisure time activities, losing Davis (wing span and eyebrows) is more than just the loss of a phenomenal athlete. He has the looks, personality, and maturity to serve like Louis Armstrong as the city’s international ambassador; a personality so attractive, an entire marketing program can be built around it.
Currently, Davis has 3.1-Million Instagram followers. By comparison, Drew Brees has less than a million. LeBron James has 45 million; superstar basketball players have huge international followings. Building New Orleans’ AD brand locally, nationally and internationally can and should be a civic and marketing priority.
When questioned, AD responded, “When the time comes, of course we will see. I love my teammates. I love New Orleans. I love the fans. I talk their slang. I love their food.” Davis’ leadership and loyalty to his team and adopted community cannot be questioned. The possibility of landing another random chance, Ping-Pong ball selection of a generational talent is infinitesimally small.
Small-market teams need superstars with talented role players to get on national network broadcasts, since advertisers demand high ratings. We have too few, and it will be very expensive to add more. We have our superstar, whose prestige is different from a mere star and requires the national limelight of championship competition for suitable exposure. We believe that Davis possesses the modest temperament, loyalty, and maturation to eschew Hollywood style and glitzy exposure. Rightfully, instead, Davis wants to win, be revered and respected and acknowledged as “the very best at his craft.”
The Pelicans have consistently stated that they will not trade Davis and will invest the money to attract complementary skilled players. It will take a winning team, not promises to convince Davis. A reversal of the team’s current mediocre record is essential, as there is no room for error in the Pelican’s calculations.
Finally, to AD. You can make a difference here in a way you can’t in Los Angeles, with so many stars and so much going on. We need you. You’ve been terrific so far both as a player and a positive role model. Your commitment to your team, to play hard and serve your community, have not gone unnoticed. It’s been a thrill to watch you grow. Let’s keep it going by winning it all — championship teams; an acknowledged legacy; and revitalized positive image for New Orleans and the state.
The Pelicans assure us the franchise will remain in New Orleans. But if Anthony Davis goes, we must admit to some concern. A vacant arena without a major tenant is a risk we cannot afford to take.
Pres Kabacoff is a developer in New Orleans. Marc Winston is a New Orleans businessman.