July 8, 2015

2015-2016 Wizards Bobbleheads?

With Summer League just a couple of days away (Vegas, here I come!), a couple of new signees and a trade in the books, the promise of a new season of hoops is right around the corner, once we get through the NBA starved months of August and September. So with an eye towards the new season this fall, it's time for the Wizards to start thinking about this year's promotional slate. At least I think it is. Here's some help for those in the giveaway war room.

I've been going to Wizards games at Verizon Center in downtown Washington for about nine and a half years now. Before that, I watched my favorite hoops team play ball at MCI Center, which is the exact same place but with a different name. Whether the building has carried the MCI name or Verizon name, signage letting you know who paid some bucks to get their logo on the marquee have been prominently displayed on F, 6th and 7th Streets NW since day one. Reports surfaced earlier this year that Verizon was considering pulling its sponsorship of the arena in 2018 when their current deal expires. Until then, the place remains theirs.

But sometime last season, some new names appears on the outside walls of Verizon Center. There was no fanfare that I noticed but sure enough, Monumental Sports and Entertainment affixed metal signs just to the left of the main entrance doors with the logos of Capital One Bank, GEICO, Pepsi and Etihad Airways. It's the first time I've ever seen this kind of acknowledgement of a second tier of corporate sponsors at an NBA arena. Not that I spend a lot of time at any other team's home; I just find it interesting. It probably means that these four sponsors are paying a little more than the average advertising partner at VC, which means we as fans might start to expect more than just a logo on a metal sign. What do I mean by this? Well, read on please.

Last year the Golden State Warriors won their first NBA Championship since 1975. They defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, who made only their second Finals appearance in franchise history and their first since 2007. Last year, the Warriors gave away six bobbleheads to thank their dedicated fans for showing up game after game, year after year; the Cavaliers gave away two. Now, I'm not trying to correlate the number of bobbleheads distributed by a particular team to postseason success but I am trying to make the point that successful teams give away multiple bobbleheads in any one season. Not to get fans in the door with some cheap piece of plastic but to say thank you. And bobbleheads need sponsors to pay for them or at least defray the cost. Getting the picture?

Last year the Washington Wizards gave away zero bobbleheads. Sure there was a G Wiz bobble made available "free" with a $20 Kids' Club membership but that's not giving a bobblehead away. It's also G Wiz. As much as I love our mascot, it's not the same as a player bobbblehead. I know we got a Marcin Gortat action figure but action figures are not bobbleheads. The previous year saw a similarly disturbing trend: just one player bobblehead (Nenê) given away plus a bonus Martell Webster bobble if you pony up some dough for a Kids' Club membership.

So now that we have some second tier sponsors (or Legacy Partners as Monumental Sport and Entertainment prefers to call them) on the outside of our building, can't we get some more bobbleheads? I'm thinking YES! Now just in case our new Legacy Partners are at a loss as to what to do here, I'm offering a few suggestions totally free of charge. Here goes.

Otto Porter, sponsored by Capital One Bank
So when I originally conceived of this post, I of course wanted to have Paul Pierce in this spot since he banked in one of the most famous Wizards shots in recent memory in last year's playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks (the "I called game!" game). But…since Paul decided to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers and not take a serious run at an NBA title, I'm sliding Otto Porter into his spot, who demonstrated that he is likely more than ready to take Pierce's starting spot this coming season.

The Wizards have been hesitant in recent years to give away bobbleheads of their rookies to fans. Sure, John Wall and Bradley Beal got bobbles their first years but Otto did not two years ago, nor did Jan Vesely, JaVale McGee, Nick Young or Oleksiy Pecherov before him. So after last year's playoffs, when Otto doubled his rebounds and assists per game over the regular season in about 80% more playing time and had the entire arena chanting "OT-TO POR-TER!", I think Otto needs a bobblehead this year.

Who has more upside for Wizards fans right now than Otto? The last couple of years he's been labeled a bust by folks from one end of this country to another and the Wizards were mocked for taking him with the number three pick. But the Wizards always insisted that while he had no obvious one strength, he did show a well rounded game with no obvious weakness and they (and he) saved all that for the playoffs last year. His length, improved shot, passing skills, speed and ability to rebound in a crowd were all on prominent display in last year's postseason. He got passed over his rookie year and his second year, it's time to make the Otto bobble. Andray Blatche got one a couple of years late. Otto ain't Dray (he's better) and he deserves one too.

Drew Gooden III, sponsored by GEICO
Need some insurance off the bench for the Wizards? Maybe a couple of three balls to get the offense going and keep the other team's defense honest? And perhaps at a 15% discount over other bench players? Looks like it's time to call on Drew Gooden. 

If you had asked me in the winter of 2010 how I felt about Drew Gooden, I'd likely have had some unkind words to throw his way. Drew was acquired by the Wizards in a deal that sent Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to the Dallas Mavericks but he made it pretty darned clear he didn't want to play for the Wizards. A couple of days later he was gone to the Clippers in a deal that sent Antawn Jamison to Cleveland and brought back pretty much nothing in return. Drew's first tenure with the Wiz brought nothing but heartache.

Fast forward a few years and Drew's one of my favorite players. I'm always there screaming DREEEEEWWWWW! whenever he checks into the game or hits a three. The Wizards should make all players wear "III" on the backs of their jerseys. It paid off great for Drew. After the Wizards picked up Drew from the parking lot of the Bethesda Whole Foods about a season and a half ago on a veteran minimum (he was amnestied by the Milwaukee Bucks and was still drawing a $6.5+ million salary), my opinion of Drew has gone way up and I'm all for keeping him as long as he can do what he's done or close to it the last couple of years.

So why not a bench bobblehead from an insurance company? I think he's as worthy as anyone else? Who else you got? Garrett Temple? DeJuan Blair? Kris Humphries? I don't think so. If it's insurance guys at a discount on the bench, Drew has to be the guy. And it has to have a headband.

Yes, I realize Drew has not technically agreed to re-sign with the Wizards yet. And yes, I know with yesterday's Alan Anderson signing that we only have one other roster spot right now but plan on it just the same, GEICO. 

Marcin Gortat, sponsored by Pepsi
Over the years, Pepsi has sponsored a ton of bobbleheads in a variety of sports all over the country. Don't believe me? Search for "pepsi bobblehead" on eBay and you will come up with a ton of hits. A recent search I did while writing this post yielded 179 items, including a Ray Allen bobblehead from 2001 (Milwaukee Bucks), Vince Carter from 2010 (Orlando Magic) and undated Al Harrington (Indiana Pacers) and B.J. Armstrong (Chicago Bulls) bobbleheads in addition to an enormous number of baseball bobbleheads; I especially like the Manny Sanguillen throwback Pittsburgh Pirates bobblehead from 2003. 

If that's not enough, the Wright State University Raiders have promised a Pepsi sponsored Coach Ralph Underhill bobblehead giveaway for the 2015-2016 season. Now that they have their name on the front of Verizon Center, they should be itching for a Wizards bobblehead night. If other teams can get one from Pepsi, why can't we?

If I were Pepsi, I'd be pushing for a Marcin Gortat bobblehead night. I know we had an action figure giveaway featuring Marcin last season but as I've already stated, action figures are not bobbleheads. Why Marcin? Well the best I can come up with here is he's sweet and bubbly just like Pepsi or if nothing else, Pepsi and everyone else ought to be dying to get Marcin's melon onto a bobblehead with their logo on the base. Of the Wizards projected starters right now, only Gortat and Porter are without team issued bobbleheads. I've already fixed Otto by setting up Capital One gorgeously; Pepsi should take Marcin.

Randy Wittman, sponsored by Etihad Airways
If Verizon decides to not renew their sponsorship of the Wizards' home arena, I'm guessing Etihad will step into the void and plonk down some serious bucks to get their name on the place. They already have a huge presence in (perhaps) the number one sports league in the world by sponsoring the Barclay's Premiere League's Manchester City's jerseys and stadium. Now they just need a foothold in a United States sports league. Washington's up and coming basketball team and its location as the capital of our country seems an ideal match.

So with Etihad presumably looking for the brass ring to raise their profile instantly, why not just go straight for the head man with their bobblehead and get what most all true Wizards fans long for: a Randy Wittman bobblehead. OK, so let's face it, right now the Wizards fan base probably has a love-hate relationship with Randy. And by that I mean half the people love him and half the people hate him. Well, maybe it's likely to be skewed more one way than the other.

I love Randy so personally speaking I'd be thrilled to get my paws on my very own Witt bobble. Plus right now I have a bunch of players, a mascot and even a mini model of Verizon Center but I have no bobblehead coach. Randy's earned it. Please, please, please do this for me, Etihad. 

And for those of you who don't know by now, Etihad is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates. There…a little free air time for Etihad. I'm sure we'll see a spike in the number of travelers to Dubai as a result of this post. If we do, you know how to repay me.

A couple of final notes here. First, If our sponsors decide other players are more worthy or four just ain't enough, well who am I to argue? But we need at least one from each I think and your name on the building sort of ropes you into sponsoring a bobblehead each year. Even if it's not contractually required, you should feel a moral obligation anyway. Show us what you got.

Secondly and finally, yes I know the graphics in this post are horribly amateur. Half of it was intentional and half of it was due to technology and/or user limitations with the software on my MacBook Air. If you are similarly limited with technology or find my graphics appealing, feel free to use them absolutely free of charge. I won't mind at all. The promotional schedule usually comes out in October. You have about three months to make good on this post. Go Wizards! Go bobbleheads!!

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