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Off

the

court and

in the

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Brian Bowen II runs during a Team USA basketball game. Photo courtesy of All-Pro Reels/Wikipedia Commons via Courthouse News

Basketball player’s case against Adidas tips off at Fourth Circuit

By JOE DODSON

 

RICHMOND, Va. (CN)—A lawyer for a former top-ranked college basketball prospect whose NCAA eligibility was stripped after a pay-for-play scandal told a Fourth Circuit panel Sept. 16 that his client should be able to bring racketeering claims against Adidas. 

The hearing revolved around Brian Bowen II's standing to bring a case under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, Act based on losing his eligibility to play college basketball after his father was bribed to persuade him to go to the University of Louisville.

A federal judge in South Carolina ruled last year that NCAA eligibility does not count as an injury to property or business, which is required for a RICO claim. That decision prompted the appeal to the Richmond, Virginia-based Fourth Circuit.

Bowen says he was the victim of a scheme by Adidas to bribe the families of the best high school basketball prospects to commit to Adidas-sponsored schools. After it was found that Bowen’s father had accepted pay- ments to encourage his son to play at Louisville, Bowen was deemed ineligible to play NCAA basketball. His

lawyer William "Billy" Wilkins of Nexsen Pruet argues that by costing him his NCAA eligibility, Adidas had ruined Bowen’s chances of making it to the NBA. He also says Adidas had taken away all his client was entitled to as a student-athlete at Louisville. 

Bowen had all the makings of a future NBA first-round draft pick as a high schooler. He was rated as a five-star college prospect and was even named as a McDonald’s All-American his senior year. ESPN ranked him as the 14th best player in his graduating class. 

The 6-foot-6 small forward fielded offers from a variety of basketball powerhouses including Michigan State and UCLA. Bowen instead committed to Louisville, a move that made his father, Brian Bowen Sr., $100,000 from sports shoe giant Adidas. 

The FBI investigated and determined that the bribes had been given a month into Bowen’s first college semes- ter, meaning he never suited up for a college game. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino lost his job in the scandal and several conspirators went to jail. 

 

Despite Friday's Fourth Circuit hearing revolving around standing for bringing a RICO suit, US Circuit Judge Robert B. King wanted to let the defense know his thoughts on paying for student-athletes to attend Adidas-sponsored schools. "A lot of things in this record stink," said King, a Bill Clinton appointee. "Companies like Adidas need to clean up their act."

 

He pulled no punches while questioning lawyers for the sportswear giant.

"In my view he’s a victim of all of it," King said of Bowen.

 

The 82-year-old judge also asked Bowen's lawyer about the definition of a RICO case, stating that he was around when the RICO Act was created. 

"It wasn’t supposed to be stretched this far, right?" King asked Wilkins.

While King focused on the scheme pulled by Adidas, U.S. Circuit Judge Toby J. Heytens, a Joe Biden appointee, wanted the parties to establish what injury to business occurred. Heytens asked Wilkins what authority Bowen would have to sue for breach of contract in the state of Kentucky. The attorney responded by claiming that Bowen had entitlements, including high quality coaching and top-class facilities, that were taken.

 

His argument revolved around the fact that by losing his eligibility, Bowen was not given the proper training needed to become a NBA player. Adidas’s lawyer, William Taft V of Debevoise & Plimpton, defended the district court's dismissal of the case, claiming that Bowen was still able to complete his schooling with the scholarship he was given and that no right was violated by him not being able to play basketball.

Wilkins rebutted by telling the judges that Bowen did not go to Louisville for its science labs or research facili- ties, but rather to play basketball. He likened the situation to that of a pilot whose pilot's license was taken. Taft disagreed.

 

"A pilot's license doesn’t give you the right to work at an airline," Taft responded. 

 

Heytens pushed back, giving Taft a scenario to consider. The judge asked if the attorney would still not consi- der it an injury to business if former NBA No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson had been injured a week before the draft by an organized crime group. 

Taft said that because Williamson had still not obtained an NBA contract, it would not count as an injury to business. The attorney cited Jackson v. Drake University, a case in the 1990s where a basketball player sued for breach of contract after he was not given playing time. A federal judge ruled at the time that Drake Univer- sity did not breach a contract because the player's scholarship still applied regardless of playing time. 

 

The crux of the argument revolved around what Bowen considered entitlements versus what Adidas consi- dered expectations. Taft argued that Bowen had a right to a free education but everything else, whether it be nutrition or weight training, fell under expectations. 

"Of course you don't have a constitutional right to play basketball," Wilkins countered. "But he did have a right to be on the team."

Heytens and King were joined on the three-judge panel by US Circuit Judge Allison Jones Rushing, a Donald Trump appointee. The judges did not indicate when they would issue a ruling.

After losing his college eligibility, Bowen played a season in Australia’s NBL, another path to the NBA that has since become more popular with the success of NBA players like Lamelo Ball. Bowen averaged 6 points a game and was never selected in the NBA draft. He was signed as a free agent to the Indiana Pacers, however, averaging just 3.8 minutes over two seasons with the team.

 

Bowen was waived in March 2022 by the Iowa Wolves after signing with the team the previous October. 

Courthouse News.

LAKERS RETOOLING

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The Los Angeles Lakers have named Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham head coach Screen shot.

Lakers tab Darvin Ham head coach

LOS ANGELES (CNS)—The Los Angeles Lakers have found a new head coach, with the team today reaching a deal to hire Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham.


ESPN first reported the hire, which was subsequently confirmed through sources by the Los Angeles Times. Although the team did not immediately respond to a request for comment, star LeBron James confirmed the news on Twitter, writing, "So damn EXCITED!!!!!!! Congrats and welcome Coach DHam!!"


Ham, 48, played college ball at Texas Tech and spent 12 years as a pro, including stints with the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Bucks, Washington Wizards, Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets. He has been an NBA assistant coach for more than a decade, including a 2011-13 stint with the Lakers.


He was also an assistant for the Atlanta Hawks before joining the Bucks coaching staff in 2018.


The Lakers in April fired head coach Frank Vogel following two straight disappointing seasons on the heels of the team's championship in the pandemic-abbreviated 2019-20 season.


In the 2020-21 season, the team finished 42-30 and was ousted from the playoffs in the first round. In the 2021-22 season, with James and Anthony Davis both battling injuries, the Lakers missed the postseason. Vogel compiled a 127-98 record during his time with the team.

So long Staples; Hello

Crypto.

com

Arena

Official
Christmas Day
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LOS ANGELES (CNS)After 22 years, the Lakers will play their last game at Staples Center tomorrow nighttwo days before the venerable downtown venue officially becomes "Crypto.com Arena" on Christmas Day.


The Lakers host the San Antonio Spurs in the 7:30 p.m. game, and plan a number of sendoff festivities for their finale under the "Staples" banner. They include:


A special opening video to be played prior to tip-off; fans in attendance receiving a commemorative ticket, as well as a T-shirt that's a replica of the first T-shirt given away at Staples in June 2000 when the Lakers won the NBA's Western Conference; several Lakers legends appearing for a halftime celebration featuring past NBA champion- ship trophies; a banner marking 22 years of Lakers history at Staples being featured along the top

of arena's City View Terrace.


The Lakers are scheduled to host the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day in the first game played at Crypto.com Arena, but that game is in danger of being postponed, as the Nets' roster has been devastated by the corona virus surge. Brooklyn's scheduled Thursday night game in Portland was postponed by the NBA on Wednesday, with the Nets not having the league-minimum of eight players available.

 

It was the third straight Nets game that was postponed. 

 

The Nets have signed several "hardship replacements," and as of Wednesday the Christmas Day game was still a go.  The Lakers' next scheduled home game after that is on New Year's Eve against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Clippers, who also call the arena home, are scheduled to host the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 26. 

 

The NHLs Los Angeles Kings, another tenant of the arena, are scheduled to host the Las Vegas Golden Knights at Crypto.com Arena on Dec. 28.  Crypto.com, which bills itself as the fastest-growing crypto currency platform, is beginning a 20-year naming rights agreement with AEG, the arena's owner. A new logo and other branding assets, including internal arena signage, will be introduced on Christmas Day if the game goes off as planned. All of the venue's external signage will be replaced by June. 

 

The agreement, announced Nov. 17, includes official designations across Crypto.com Arena, L.A. LIVE, Microsoft Theater, The Novo, the Lakers, and the Kings. The agreement also makes Crypto.com an official crypto currency platform partner of the Lakers and Kings. Terms of the agreement were not announced, though the Los Angeles Times reported Crypto.com paid more than $700 million for the naming rights, according to sources familiar with the terms. That would make it one of the biggest naming deals in sports history. 

 

Crypto.com claims to have more than 10 million customers. Its headquarters are in Singapore, and it employs more than 2,600 people in offices across the Americas, Europe and Asia.  The company was founded in 2016. It recently began a global campaign featuring actor Matt Damon to formally introduce the platform. 

 

Crypto.com also has sponsorships with the UFC, the F1 auto racing circuit, Italian soccer's Serie A, the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, and NHL's Montreal Canadiens.