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Volume 24 No. 156
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     As the NBA prepares for its All-Star weekend in Phoenix,
papers from around the country this morning are offering
perspective on the league.  The NBA bills the "three days in
Phoenix as a celebration of American's hippest sport," writes
Roger Thurow in this morning's WALL STREET JOURNAL.  The weekend
is "a mighty sell-abration," the best vehicle for peddling the
games most-marketable personalities to the NBA's foreign
markets."  Commissioner David Stern calls it "a real-brand
builder."  Thurow looks at the NBA's international expansion
efforts. As the league gains on soccer as "the world's most
popular sport, the NBA brand, manifested by their merchandise of
its 29 teams is getting to be as ubiquitous as cans of Coke,
especially in Europe and Asia."  International sales of NBA
products is expected to hit $350M for the year, and the league
has "jumped heavily into cable, satellite and direct broadcasting
and now claims to be the largest provider of sports programming
in the world."  NBA Entertainment is the hub of the international
effort, where league highlights and shows are sent around the
world.  Stephen Hellmuth, VP/Operations at NBA Entertainment:
"Most everything we do, we're thinking globally" (WALL STREET
JOURNAL, 2/10).
     LABOR UPDATE: On the labor front, there is "growing unease
about the lack of progress" toward a new CBA to replace the one
that expired in June, according to Gary Kingston of the VANCOUVER
SUN.  The NBA and NBPA had hoped to "have a framework of an
agreement" by the All-Star break, but the two sides are "still
far apart."  NBPA President Charles Grantham:  "Definitely, we
are on a collision course."  Grantham says the "biggest thorn" in
negotiations is the owners' reluctance to identify, and share,
some of the revenues generated by the league, "particularly the
take from licensing and merchandise."  Currently the NBPA
receives $500,000 annually from licensing and merchandising,
which goes into an annuity.  Grantham: "It's embarrassing.  The
league will do about $3 billion in retail sales this season.  We
assume their take is somewhere around 5%.  That's $125 million
plus" (VANCOUVER SUN, 2/10).