Joe Alexander the Next Jerry West?
Yeah, but can he sell bed sheets in Beijing?
When Joe Alexander announced a couple of weekends ago that he was hanging in with the NBA draft, the only thing I could think about was É Woodstock.
Yes, that Woodstock, with Max Yasgur’s farm and all those suburban hippies and Jimi and the Fish Cheer and Alvin Lee’s solo on “Goin’ Home.”
Two things stand out on that Aquarian weekend in August 1969:
The first was the wannabe-hippie misadventure of my sister, who was determined to hitchhike to New York state so she could “dig the happening,” as she put it.
She dug it as far as Pt. Marion, Pa. (about 25 miles north of our driveway), before she chickened out and called one of her girlfriends who had just gotten her license for a very secret ride back home.
The second involved that same driveway and the rusty basketball rim that hung over the garage. It was there that I lost six straight games of Horse – six straight – to Patty Stewart, my bus stop crush at the time.
Blame it on the DNA. Patty’s older brothers were varsity athletes. So was her dad, and her mom would’ve been too if Title IX had been around when she was in school.
Patty, to her credit, didn’t gloat. She found the whole thing endearing, in fact. She even ruffled my hair, which made me love her even more – even though I knew I lost more than a basketball-shooting game (or six) in her eyes that day.
Oh, well. I still had the Lakers and Jerry West.
The guy who became the NBA logo had some age on him, but he could still go into Mr. Clutch when the team really needed him to.
He was the best in a lofty business, and he was ours.
The only time he froze, I read somewhere, was when he would get roped into doing local commercials on Los Angeles TV for Shakey’s Pizza and other places. Painful afternoons for a naturally shy kid from Chelyan, you know?
In fact, the only national commercials I remember seeing any basketball players doing back then were for hair care products: Dave DeBusschere used to pitch Aqua Velva, and Pete Maravich would spin a basketball on one finger while pulling the trigger on a can of men’s hair spray (don’t remember which brand) with the other.
That was before Marketing Majors Ruled the World – and my former newsroom colleague Mike Casazza wrote an interesting, endorsement-minded take related to that in the June 17 edition of the Charleston Daily Mail.
Joe, it seems, is already his own brand.
And he just might be the next big thing in China, his agent, Doug Neustadt, told Casazza.
Joe’s pretty much fluent in Mandarin and he spent his formative years in Asia – his father’s international job with Nestle took the family to Beijing, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
That instant identification with Asia couldn’t make him more advertiser-friendly over there, his agent said.
“I think he’s going to be a superstar for the shoe and apparel companies,” Neustadt said.
That means while I’ll be tuning in to the NBA to once again watch a West Virginia guy (hopefully) tear up the court, so too will I be clicking on YouTube for all those commercials from China.
Oh, and what happened since ’69? My sister became a Garth Brooks fan and Patty (I’m told) had to have liposuction on her butt. It’s OK, though. She married a lawyer.
I haven’t played basketball since gym class in junior high. I almost killed the course owner’s beagle with a Titleist 4 the last time I played golf.
We all can’t be Joe – but I hope he can.
Contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org