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EXCLUSIVE SURVEY: HILL RATED THE NBA'S TOP RISING STAR
Published October 26, 1994
The NBA season starts in less than two weeks, and with the absence of hockey and starving baseball fans stuffed with football, the league finds itself in the enviable position of being one of the only games in town. This gives the NBA's younger players an opportunity to showcase their playmaking and marketing talents to fans and sponsors alike. In an exclusive survey, THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY asked twenty of the top professionals in sports to offer their short list of hot, young players to keep an eye on. The question posed to all: "With exception of Shaquille O'Neal, who are the top young, marketable athletes in the NBA?" Seth Sylvan, assistant director of public relations at NBA Entertainment, sees the NBA's top stars split into three groups: The veteran stars in search of a championship ring; a middle group of regional stars searching for wider national appeal; and the top picks of the past two years. But THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY's marketability survey finds it's the young guns who are attracting the attention among the key industry executives interviewed: 1. Grant Hill, Detroit Pistons (rookie) 2. Chris Webber, Golden State Warriors 3. Penny Hardaway, Orlando Magic tie- 4. Shawn Kemp, Seattle Supersonics Glenn Robinson, Milwaukee Bucks (rookie) tie- 5. Charlie Ward, New York Knicks (rookie) Alonzo Mourning, Charlotte Hornets GRANT HILL: The Pistons rookie was the runaway choice for the top spot. Hill was mentioned by seventeen of the twenty surveyed -- and eight of those seventeen rated him No. 1 overall. Among the key factors contributing to his potential ascendance: His personality; Detroit's status as a "basketball-crazy" city; and, his exposure during his college days at Duke. Chris Bernucca, Senior Editor at INSIDE BASKETBALL, called Hill "one guy you could build the league around. ... He reminds me of a Julius Erving." Mike Levine, director of marketing at Athletes and Artists: "Women like him and men respect him. ... He speaks well and is very bright, and everyone knows he can play." CHRIS WEBBER: Webber was a strong second to Hill. He was mentioned by thirteen respondents, and over half of those placed him in their top two. Like Hill, Webber's articulate manner and the national exposure he gained from two Final Four appearances at Michigan make him an attractive candidate for top endorsements. And winning the 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year Award hasn't hurt, either. One sports marketing exec at a major corporate sponsor notes Webber's "likeable personality" and gives him high marks for the way he handled the "time-out controversy" of the '93 NCAA Final. BIG DOG, SMALL BITE? Many of the respondents were hesitant about 1994 No. 1 draft pick GLENN ROBINSON, with several noting that he hurts himself the longer he holds out. In fact, even among those who mentioned Robinson, four specifically cited his $100 million contract demand as a threat to his marketing potential. THE BEST OF THE REST: Dave Lewis, managing editor of SLAM magazine, calls our No. 3, PENNY HARDAWAY, the "closest thing to Magic Johnson." One exec at a top representation firm says SHAWN KEMP has "megastar potential." CHARLIE WARD is called the "sleeper" of the bunch by several respondents because of his two- sport talents and the New York factor. BOBBY HURLEY did not crack the Top Five, but the potential is there for a great story if he can return from his injuries. METHODOLOGY: THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY confidentially interviewed twenty sports marketing, media and advertising professionals over the last 10 days. Those surveyed were chosen on the basis of their experience and expertise in sports marketing or athlete endorsements; their company's role as a top sponsor of sporting events; or their close work with the NBA -- as journalists or licensees. In no way do we make any claims about the scientific validity of this survey. Rather, it represents a quick read of the industry's pulse.