The Business of Ball with Joseph James Francis

The Top Ten Sports Money Stories of 2017

By: Joseph James Francis

Friday, December 29, 2017

If you’re like me, 2017 was a blur of chaos and confusion. It seems like it was just yesterday the ball dropped on the year and boom, here we are, at the doorstep of 2018. In sports, it seems as if controversy was as big a headline as actual achievement this past year. While we have seen some great accomplishments this year, the business of sports took a step forward as the defining story of the year. Let’s take a look at the top ten sports money stories of 2017, in no particular order.

1) NBA Finals Triple Header

This year we saw for the third year in a row, Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers take on Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. This was the first time in NBA history that the same 2 teams met in 3 straight NBA finals. This year saw the addition of Kevin Durant to the already powerful Warrior squad and it proved to be too much for Lebron and the Cavs to handle. Golden State took down Cleveland in 5 games and coasted through the playoffs, winning all but one game through 4 playoff rounds. This year could be more of the same as Cleveland and Golden State look to be on the same collision course to finals as previous years. Ratings for the finals was through the roof as this matchup has taken control of the NBA landscape. Watch for this possibly being the last meeting of these two squads in the finals as Lebron will likely test free agency this coming summer.

2) Loco Logos

The starting of the 2017-2018 NBA season saw the introduction of advertising logos on jerseys. While some people, such as myself, do not like the idea, it seems to have been met with a mild attitude. This paves the way for the NBA to broaden their advertising reach as the slippery slope has begun. Also look to other leagues to follow suit. How long will it be before the MetLife Knicks take on the Chick Fil A Lakers? Time will tell.

3) Tiger Woods Baby!

Yes, you heard it right, Tiger Woods is back! This time he came back and had a good showing at the World Hero Challenge. Tiger finished tied for 9th in the 18-man field and flirted with the greatness old Tiger for much of the tournament. The December tournament in the Bahamas was his first competitive action since last February and his first decent showing in a long time. Could this be the return of the dominant Tiger that we all grew to love in the early 2000’s? Time will tell, but it was a great first step for Woods.

4) Watt the Wonderful!

JJ Watt took fundraising to a whole new level this past summer when he went to bat for Hurricane relief in the Houston Area. Hurricane Harvey was labeled the costliest Cyclone on record, costing over 200 Billion and claiming 77 lives. From August 17 to September 3, the storm reeked havoc and caused massive flooding throughout the Houston area. JJ started out with small ambitions, but his efforts soon took off with over $37 Million being raised from over 200,000 donations. The city of Houston has since bounced back and was rewarded with a World Series title a month later from their hometown Astros. JJ showed that a little hard work and a lot of heart can accomplish big things. Cheers JJ!

5) Matty the Wealthiest

Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions became the richest player in NFL History this past year, inking a massive 5-year, $135 Million contract. The contract averages about $27 Million per year and has a total guarantee of $60.5 Million. While some people will claim that is just the cost of doing business in the NFL, you can also look to the fact that the Lions will miss the playoffs this year and still haven’t won a playoff game in 26 years (1991). In fact, 4 of the top 5 highest paid QB’s in the NFL, (yearly average), will not be participating in this year's playoffs, (Stafford, Carr, Luck, Cousins – Only Drew Brees made the playoffs). The jury is still out on whether money can buy you wins and we will see what happens this offseason as Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garroppolo and Sam Bradford all become free-agents.

6) Comeback King, Brady the Great

While I still clung to the glory days of Joe Montana and the 49er’s of the 1980’s, there was no doubt this year as to who the greatest QB of all time was. Tom Brady cemented himself as the GOAT with a comeback of the ages at last February's Super Bowl 51 in Houston. Down 28-3 late in the third quarter, the Patriots stormed back to tie the game late in regulation and win the game in an overtime thriller. Having seen over 25 Super Bowls, this one is clearly the best I have ever seen and notches Brady his fifth ring, surpassing Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the most prolific Super Bowl QB of all time. Brady goes for ring number 6 this year and shows no sign of slowing down as his Patriots are once again the class of the AFC.

7) Bank with the Maple Leafs?

The Toronto Maple Leafs cashed in HUGE with a massive sponsorship deal from ScotiaBank this past year. Say goodbye to the Air Canada Centre and welcome in the ScotiaBank Arena. The deal is worth $800 million over 20 years, a whoping $40 million a season! This record-setting deal will cement ScotiaBank as hockey’s premier sponsor, already having naming rights to the ScotiaBank Saddledome in Calgary and supporting over 8,000 community teams across Canada. Will your bank fees now go up as well? My guess is yes….

8) Big Baller Boys

Led by their outspoken father, LaVar Ball, the Ball brothers of California have grabbed headlines all across the basketball world this past year. Lonzo, now of the Los Angeles Lakers, was drafted 2nd overall out of UCLA and has been a good addition to the Laker lineup, averaging 10 points, with 7 rebounds and 7 assists per game. Younger brother LiAngelo was pulled out of UCLA by father LaVar after he created an international incident when overseas in China, having been caught stealing from a Chinese retailer while travelling with the Bruins. Father Lavar has decided the best route for his younger two sons is to play basketball in Europe, hopefully, en route to the NBA. LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball now both play for Vytautas Prienai–Birštonas of the Lithuanian Basketball League. Who knows how this move will affect the Big Baller Brand Label, which has reportedly sold under 1000 pairs of shoes to this date. Reality TV might be the next step as father LaVar has jumped into the political realm, taking on President Trump’s claims that he saved son LiAngelo during his run-in with Chinese Police. Let's see how LaVar's grand plan unfolds.

9) Floyd and Conner finally throw down

The long-awaited crossover matchup between boxing great Floyd Mayweather and MMA star Conner McGregor finally took place this past year, on August 26th, from Las Vegas. Leading up to the fight, the two fighters took to the airwaves with a series of wild promotional events that often became bizarre. The ploy worked as the fight reportedly netted Mayweather over $300 Million and McGregor a cool $100 Million. By the time the fight came around the result was expected. Floyd won the fight in a 10-round TKO, with Conner showing he can hang with the best, surprising many with his boxing prowess. The win catapulted Mayweather to a 50-0 career record, surpassing the legendary Rocky Marciano. Although I believe a rematch is unlikely, it’s hard to say what Floyd and Conner will do next, especially with dollar signs hanging in the background.

10) Taking a knee

By far the most dominant sports topic of the year was the widespread NFL protests during the national anthem at the onset of each game. Sparked by Colin Kaepernick, NFL players showed solidarity against police brutality and systemic state oppression towards minorities, by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before the game. What started out as a few players, grew to whole teams taking a knee or even staying in the dressing room during the anthem. Politics and Sports collided, as President Trump weighed in stating that anyone who takes a knee during the anthem should be immediately fired. This sparked even more outrage from the players and story became National and International news. Monetarily, the NFL has seen a reduction of ratings this past year, with the reason for that being unclear. It is certain that some people are now boycotting the NFL because of player protests. While I do believe it may hurt the league financially, it also might move the league into a different realm, based on personalities instead of teams, like the NBA has become. As I predicted, the story lost traction once it became wildly popular and playoff drama has taken the forefront. All the while Colin Kaepernick is still jobless and has since filed a lawsuit against the NFL. It will be interesting to see where this story goes this offseason and if next year some changes will be made to the pre-game rituals.

This year saw some great highlights and lowlights, with drama being the recurring theme. The business of sports will continue to grow as leagues find new creative ways to make money and players finding their own creative ways to get some of it as well. One thing is for sure, the soap opera of sports was put on display this past year, making it the best Reality Show on TV.

Joseph James Francis is a Financial Advisor, Money Coach, and Blogger. He can be reached at:

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