By Barry Janoff
July 2, 2013: Dwight Howard is currently making sports headlines as a free agent playing host to several NBA teams who want to pay the All-Star center upward of $118 million over the next five years.
But once the tour starring Howard ends for representatives from the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers (for whom he played in 2012-13), Howard gets to take his own tour.
Under the banner of adidas, and in support of the late summer release of the D Howard 4 signature shoe, Howard will head to China Aug.16-26 to visit cities including Hangzhou, Chengdu and Beijing. The tour also will include stops in Seoul, South Korea; Taipei, Taiwan; and Hong Kong.
Adidas's summer tour schedule also includes the "Quick vs. Fast China Tour," which runs through July 5. This one features such NBA players as Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves), John Wall (Washington Wizards), Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Peilcans), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) and Mike Conley Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies). Stops include Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou, in support of Crazyquick and adizero Crazy Light 3 basketball shoes.
“Through our successful partnership with the NBA, we’re seeing the game of basketball grow globally year after year, and we’re excited for this opportunity to fuel that growth,” Lawrence Norman, vp-adidas global basketball, said in a statement. “These great players are some of the most recognizable athletes in the world, and we couldn’t be more proud to have them on the ground representing Adidas Basketball in countries across Europe and Asia.”
To help jump-start the activation, adidas teamed with Los Angeles-based Relativity Media to produce a humorous two-minute spot with Howard, Wall and former NBA player Yi Jianlian, who is currently playing for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Assn.
In the commercial, Yi conducts a Q&A in Mandarin, and the two players answer in Mandarin. For those people who don't speak the language, the spot comes with subtitles.
"Many people don't know that China has some of the best and biggest fans of basketball in the entire world," Yi says in his native language. "The world doesn't know something as well — NBA stars can speak Chinese."
Howard, decked out in adidas gear, looks puzzled . . . but responds in Mandarin. "Hi. I am Dwight Howard."
Wall, also wearing adidas garb, responds in Mandarin as well. "Hi. I am John Wall."
Yi continues, "I am very excited for you to come to my country. What most excites you about the trip?"
Wall replies, "The gourmet food."
Howard, who will be making his seventh trip to the country, according to adidas, offers, "Meeting new people."
Yi asks, "You guys are going to appear in cities such as Shanghai, Chendu and Beijing. John Wall, is this the first time you have left the United States?"
Wall replies, "It's true," although he has traveled to Canada with the Wizards to play the Toronto Raptors.
Yi remarks, "With Ricky Rubio joining you, this might turn into your very own Lost in Thailand." The reference is to the 2012 comedy directed by and starring Zheng Xu, a Far East version of The Hangover in which three men travel through the country and have off-beat adventures.
"I see myself more as Jackie Chan," replies Wall.
Howard smiles, "I see myself as Superman."
Yi concludes with, "China welcomes you and safe travels."
Wall says, "Thank-you, China."
To which an elated Howard adds, "We will see you in China!"
The promo is followed by several outtakes. Yi rattles off a couple of sentences in Mandarin that do not come with subtitles. "What did he just say?" asks Wall. "Me-fun-pee," laughs Howard in a faux Oriental accent. "Wo-man come find me." (See the full commercial here.)
China has been a prime touring destination for NBA players for several years, fueled by the likes of adidas and Nike (which annually sends LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Amar'e Stoudemire and others to the nation). The top-selling NBA jerseys in China, according to the most recent figures released by the NBA are (in order): Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rando.
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