Prior to the 2011 NBA Finals, you had to have felt kind of bad for the Nike exec who was put in charge of marketing Dirk Nowitzki to the American public.
A brief summary on what an advertiser’s PowerPoint on Dirk would look like before yesterday morning:
– He’s a 7-foot German with a shuffling, awkward playing style.
– He’s been labeled “soft” by media, fans, and peers, in a field that puts a premium on hardness.
– He’s never won an NBA title, and the only time he was ever close to one, he folded under the pressure.
– He rarely dunks, and when he does, you wish he hadn’t.
– Two-thirds of the public have absolutely no idea who he is.
– Oh, and he’s not exactly the most photogenic man in the world.
Before yesterday morning, the Dirk question (“how do we sell this guy?”) was one that most sponsors answered by not answering. Besides Nike, Dirk has no endorsements. He doesn’t have an agent. CNBC’s Darren Rovell guesses that Dirk makes about $500,000 a year from his Nike contract. LeBron’s deal with the swoosh is worth 16 times that.
But, suddenly, the Dirk question is easier to answer. His awkward playing style? Logo-inspiring. His softness? No longer an issue. His complete lack of conventional good looks? Uh, have you seen this man in hipster eyewear? Rock star.
This is what greeted readers of the Dallas Morning News this morning: a big, splashy, ad featuring Dirk Nowtizki’s endearingly weird-looking signature jump shot. Epic, indeed.
That’s what happens sometimes when you win: all of the perceived flaws in your character and appearance suddenly become selling points. And that’s what happened to Dirk Nowitzki as the final buzzer sounded in Dallas’ game 6 win over Miami on Sunday night: he won, so everything bad about him is suddenly good.
And when you lose? Well, when you lose, the opposite happens. Your confidence is perceived as arrogance. Your toughness is questioned. And even though everyone in America knows who you are, you wish that they didn’t, and that they’d just leave you alone.