Million Dollar Question
Three Stripe Life and Recruiting – A Three Part Realistic Fiction
Scene 1 – A Meeting of Legends, Portland, Oregon
Kanye West, James Harden, Patrick Mahomes, and Lionel Messi walk into a bar. They huddle up in a cozy spot in the back. A circular table, like a scene out of Swingers. These superstars order a round of drinks and catch up. Aaron Rodgers shuffles in, apologizing for his tardiness.
The waitress asks, “Does somebody wanna open a tab?” They all look at Mahomes, the rookie of the crew. A rising super star. Last year’s Super Bowl MVP obliges; he knows the rules.
The guys laugh for a while and enjoy the first round. Harden jokes, “Ya’ll realize I’m the most recognizable face at this table right now?” General disagreement at the table.
Rodgers speaks up, “So you think the beard gives you that much clout?”
Kanye, now a man of God but very much a businessman, summons the waitress. “Excuse me, miss, can you please identify each of my friends here at the table?”
The waitress is used to serving celebrities and famous athletes. After all, she works just a few blocks from Adidas Headquarters in Portland. She’s cute, she knows it and realizes if she plays along, she will probably be getting a nice tip.
She has a little giggle, thinks for a minute and gives it her best shot working left to right around the circular table, left to right starting with Kanye pointing with her finger.
“Okay, you are Kim’s husband. The beard is James Harden. Guy in the middle? I’ve seen your face recently but can’t think of your name (she knows it but she’s being flirty). Is the short guy like your manager or something? And Aaron Rodgers, my dad is a huge Packers fan so I couldn’t miss that one.” Everybody laughs.
The short guy has yet to say anything all night. That’s kind of his style. Soft spoken. Stoic. A silent killer. He finally speaks up, “A quien le importa.” He couldn’t care less.
Mahomes loses it. “I didn’t know this man talked! I know you are a legend and the goat and all but that is literally the first time I’ve heard your voice!”
“Prefiero mis pies.” He lets his feet do the talking. “O mi banco…” Or his bank account.
Now they are rolling. Kanye calls out, “So you wanna play that game, Messi?” Leo smiles, shaking his head in laughter. He knows his Three Stripe colleague has made close to 1.3 BILLION off of the Yeezys. His Predator cleats don’t stand a chance.
The old vetean chimes in, “What is clout though? How do you measure it? Is it being recognizable? Money? IG Followers? Dare I say, winning? Does winning have anything to do with it?!”
They could talk shop and compare bags all night. But Kanye finally reminds them that time is money and they are here for a reason today: expanding the brand. “Darius Williams has ALL of that, A-Rod. We gotta get this kid to sign with Adidas tomorrow morning. That’s why we all showed out from all over. He’s gonna be the next LeBron. The Prince of PG County will now be the Prince of the Three Stripe Life. And all that will do is ensure that Messi’s bank account, and everybody’s bank account, will continue to grow.”
Finally, something they can ALL agree with.
Scene 2 – A Young Prince – Prince George’s County, Maryland
Darius Williams has just finished scoring 41 points in front of 3,000 people. A sellout event to showcase high school basketball talent. He is the number one recruit in the country. Coach K is courtside. Tom Izzo is there with his entire coaching staff. UCLA, Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and all the other blue bloods all represented.
Darius is different from last generation’s rising superstar. He has the traditional gifts, standing 6’6 with world-class athleticism. Some are calling him the next Kobe. But it’s the new age off the court measurables that matter in today’s recruiting. And that’s where he is special.
By the time he was entering high school, he was blue-check verified on Instagram. By his sophomore year, he had a million followers. The summer before his junior year, he went live with Vanessa Hudgens and she said that she would take him on a date for his 18th birthday.
Darius Williams is from Prince George’s County, the Mecca of high school basketball talent. He was born to play in the NBA. And his parents know it. The entire country has been trying to get a look at Darius. But thankfully, his mom and dad have been watching his every move as well. His pops was a great player back in the day and he has seen hundreds of talented kids come inches from stardom in PG County. Only to make one bad decision and lose it all. Mr. and Mrs. Williams made sure their son would not make that mistake. Darius was going to be the next Kevin Durant.
Due to NCAA rules, the coaches can’t talk to Darius after the game. And due to his parents rules, no one else can either. His dad has actually hired a group of friends to make sure NO ONE bothers Darius or tries to influence him in any way. He takes his classes online so that he is not corrupted at school. The Williams family is just months away from being millionaires.
Darius can be found one of two places: at home or at the gym with his team. He has a strict schedule that makes sure he stays on the right path every day. However, tomorrow is going to be different. The Williams family is flying to Portland, Oregon, to the United States Adidas Headquarters for an important meeting.
Scene 3 – The Question, Portland, Oregon
Darius Williams steps off a private jet. He had flown many times in the last few years. He played in AAU “Circuit” Events all over the country: the Nike EYBL for Team Durant in the Peach Jam, the Under Armor Circuit with Team Curry, but most recently, he was playing in the Adidas Gold Gauntlet. He was the prized player on Team Lillard.
Him and Dame go back and forth regularly via text. As he does with many of the NBA superstars. It was his dad that chose Team Lillard. He had spent a long time privately weighing the opportunities of each team. It was tough turning down Team Durant with Darius also being from PG County. But, Mr. Williams wanted his son to stand alone and stand out. KD would have to understand. After all, this is business.
Getting out of the Uber, Damian Lillard welcomes the Williams Family to the Adidas Headquarters. They walk into a glass building with contemporary architecture. After shaking a few hands, Lillard opens the door into a conference room with a long table. The table of legends.
A music and cultural icon, the NBA’s leading scorer, two super bowl MVPs and arguably the most famous athlete on the planet. After all, soccer is the world’s game. But basketball is catching up. And it’s crazy, but Darius Williams fits right in with this crowd.
After a few minutes of small talk, Aaron Rodgers asks the literal million dollar question. “So what’s the move champ? Are you ready to join the Three-Stripe Life?”
Who’s Who in the Adidas Realm
An Analysis of the Major Adidas Schools
“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” This is just the beginning. And if you haven’t listened to Zach Smith’s Menace 2 Sports Podcast Episode 98 about the future business of college athletics, be sure to do so. Zach articulately breaks down and explains how these new NCAA “rules and guidelines” are going to be utilized throughout the country. Simply put, the recent NCAA decision to allow college players to sign with agents and receive monetary compensation represents a monumental paradigm shift across the entire landscape of amateur and collegiate athletics.
The story above is entirely fictional as it pertains to the characters. However, the anecdotal scenario laid out is both realistic and inevitable. While there isn’t actually a five-star recruit from PG County named Darius Williams, there are certainly many young athletes all over the country who could have similar experiences in the near future.
The remainder of the article breaks down Adidas and their brand impact in the inevitable arms race that is college athletics. How is Adidas going to find a way to dominate college basketball while also navigating a successful niche on the football field? As Zach outlines on the show, Adidas has already been attempting to do everything we are discussing illegally on the west coast football scene using the “Grassroots Movement.”
Overall, Adidas is the dark horse of the major brands. Primarily championed by their soccer affiliation, Adidas sponsors Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus and many other WORLDWIDE enterprises that dwarf the likes of Alabama or Clemson football. The Three Stripe Life is going to be fine one way or the other.
It’s important to note: Adidas has had a major influence on college basketball and that will most definitely continue. It’s likely that when Darius Williams finally made his hypothetical collegiate decision, he would’ve chosen between Kansas, Indiana, Louisville, Miami, or another Adidas powerhouse.
Kansas already flexed their invincibility at their Midnight Madness back in October 2019. Snoop Dogg performed in a cloud smoke surrounded by exotic dancers. In what was ultimately supposed to be a glorified meet the team and open practice, Kansas smirked at the NCAA and hosted their own club banger. Do you think that event was at all intriguing to a recruit like our Darius Williams? And now he can meet local businesses after the show, and promote their products on IG. Ball game.
Yes, college sports is very much a show. A show in which the actors are 99% of the entertainment yet they have historically collected 1% of the profit. Nah, that money went traditionally to the patriarchy that simply produced it behind the scenes. Not for long.
Below is a list of the top Adidas schools and a potential pecking order for which athletic programs could cash in on the new system. We have considered traditional fan support, alumni base, city demographics and landscape and other important factors as it pertains to business infrastructure.
1. Miami Hurricanes – The U is capable of top 25 in football and basketball annually. They have the tradition and the brand. In terms of location, the recruits are excited about the South Beach vibes and the celebrity appeal. A relatively small but Uber-wealthy alumni base combined with big name marketing opportunities for the players makes the Canes a prize horse for Adidas.
2. Kansas – Despite Kansas lack of success in football, they are arguably the most important basketball institution in the nation. Already marred with turmoil and speculation, Kansas now has the freedom to recruit by selling their brand as well as financial opportunity. Capable of landing 5 star recruits and winning National Championships every year, the Rock Chalk Jayhawks are a truly rock for the Three Stripes. Basketball players at Kansas are local celebrities, bottom line. Can Les Miles sell this in football as well?
3. Louisville – Like Miami, Louisville can put a top 25 program together in both major sports. A town with rich sports pedigree from boxing to horse racing, Louisville has always been underrated. A consistent national title contender in hoops, can they also land the next Lamar Jackson on the gridiron? If they can, his face will soon be on a billboard next to American Pharoah and Muhammad Ali. The Cardinals can be a force for Adidas.
4. Texas A&M – Kiss your dates when the Aggies score. And they might score big with their Adidas partnership soon. Everything is bigger in Texas and nothing is bigger than football. They have a massive alumni base, top notch infrastructure and a strong culture. They have been hit or miss with hoops but they are a 5 star away from being back on the map. Buzz Williams is a tremendous young coach that the recruits love. He is the perfect guy to sell the clout. Texas A&M is ready.
5. Indiana – Indiana basketball is never as good as their fans think they are but this matters very little. What’s important is just that. Even when they underachieve, the people still love them. They’ve always recruited well. Now, players can represent local car sales and restaurants, the Hoosier State will be an appealing destination for a young hooper. On the football side, the Hoosiers have been poor, low attendance, and no big stars. Until they change that, Adidas will find other athletic institutions more valuable overall.
6. NC State – Here’s another school that is capable of top 25 performance in football and basketball. Rarely threatening much further, the Wolfpack are still a solid B-List school. It’s a basketball rich state but they are not far from the DMV for recruiting both major sports. NC State is reliable.
7. Nebraska – A little bit of a wild card in this discussion. Obviously, their football program has all the support you could ever want. Every game is a sellout and the tradition is there. Between Scott Frost and Fred Hoiberg, the main sports have two young studs championing the Cornhusker brand. Of course, they will have to step up their recruiting significantly to truly compete in the Big Ten. But does their success even matter as long as everyone is getting paid? Aaron Rodgers posed the same question in the narrative above.
8. Mississippi State – Mississippi State, like Texas A&M, is able to add the third sport: baseball. SEC baseball is one of the most underrated enterprises in all of college sports. If you know you know. Both the Aggies and the Bulldogs are capable of landing top recruits and unleashing a top 25 program on all three playing fields. Mississippi State is another reliable option for Adidas.
9. Rutgers and a bunch of mid-majors. Adidas sponsors the second most schools of all sports brands. They will feel comfortable heading into the future of college sports.