Benjamin Pokh is a partner at an advertising and marketing company in New York. He’s also a die-hard New York Knicks fan, which hasn’t been a fun thing to be over the past, oh, two decades. So when a generational talent like Kevin Durant is heading for free agency in about eight months and when Durant is in town with the Warriors, there’s really just one thing a Knicks stalwart/marketing executive can do: erect a billboard near Madison Square Garden featuring a cartoon Durant posing with Kristaps Porzingis and the Larry O’Brien Trophy along with a slogan — “Can You Make NY Sports Great Again?” — and a hashtag: #KDNY2019.
“My business partner and I are lifelong Knick fans, and we are tired of all the losing, so we decided to do our part in helping our team recruit the best players the NBA has to offer, because that’s what New York sports deserves,” Pokh told ESPN’s Ian Begley.
Alas, Durant himself seemed flattered at best while also displaying a keen understanding of the frenzy that now surrounds NBA free agents, even when the silly signing season is nearly a full season away.
“It’s the time the NBA is in,” he told reporters in New York after practice Thursday, one day before the Knicks-Warriors game. “We look forward to free agency as fans, and your guys' job is to kind of look towards the future a little bit. And the fans love it. So I understand.
“To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about that type of stuff. It’s cool. No disrespect, but I’m not really impressed with that type of stuff. I just really like playing basketball. . . . I know all of that stuff is a part of it, but for me I don’t really get up for that stuff.”
The billboard industry is thanking its lucky stars that NBA free agency has driven people at least a little crazy. In February, a Pennsylvania-based home remodeling company erected several billboards near the Cavaliers' arena in Cleveland imploring LeBron James to sign with the 76ers (didn’t work). In response, an Ohio Realtor paid for a digital billboard reminding James that “there’s no place like home” (didn’t work). Billboards also were erected in Portland (didn’t work) and Los Angeles (worked!).
New York has seen at least one NBA billboard success story. In June 2017, when Phil Jackson was still running the Knicks and there was talk that he might trade Porzingis, Knicks fan Rob “World Wide Wob” Perez and his marketing company paid for a digital ad at the corner of 33rd and 7th in Midtown Manhattan, right near Madison Square Garden. It’s message was clear: “Don’t Trade Porzingis.”
Porzingis was not traded. Whether Durant joins him in New York will be a topic of many billboards to come.
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