How the NBA Lost China; The High Cost of Hosting a Super Bowl

Also: Former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is back on a campus in Ohio, Gordie Howe is sick, and Serena Williams is spending quality time in Paris with Grigor Dimitrov.

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Today in sports: Former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is back on a campus in Ohio, Gordie Howe is sick, and Serena Williams is spending quality time in Paris with Grigor Dimitrov.

Remember Yao Ming? Tall, pleasant fellow, picked number one overall in the 2001 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets? He was supposed to be the NBA's ticket to conquering the Chinese market, but things didn't exactly proceed according to plan over the next decade. Yao was an eight-time all-star, but was frequently injured, and ended up retiring last summer due to a fractured foot. Even more damaging was commissioner David Stern's casual revelation in 2008 that the league wanted to one day have an affiliate league in China. This didn't sit well with the state-owned Chinese Basketball Association, which later that year rejected a proposal for a new, NBA-branded eight-team league that both sides would have controlled equally. Since the snub, NBA TV ratings in China have declined, the country has failed to produce a second Yao-caliber player, and the grand plan for a global pro basketball conglomerate has been scrapped, another victim of "the China trap." [The New York Times Magazine]

The Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board, which manages Lucas Oil Field, is projecting the city will lose $810,000 by hosting Sunday's Super Bowl. Per the Indianapolis Business Journal, the city-owned ICB is budgeting for total Super Bowl expenses of $8 million, but only expects "revenue of nearly $7.2 million." (Overtime pay for city workers is driving the extra costs.) That figure, which admittedly doesn't account for the revenue the game will generate for local businesses, is the latest tough financial break for the city, where Lucas Oil Stadium -- which opened in 2008 -- is the centerpiece $2.5 billion downtown redevelopment project. "To pay for construction of the stadium," Bloomberg explains, "the Indiana Finance Authority borrowed about $612 million from 2005 to 2007 using auction-rate bonds." The interest rate on those bonds exploded when the credit markets went south, and by 2009, the city was operating the stadium at a $20 million deficit. State economists are predicting the game may generate $286 million for local businesses, though Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson, who has studied the economic impact of past Super Bowls, informs Bloomberg that that projection could be "three to 10 times higher than the game’s actual value, based on data such as employment, tax receipts, and personal income." The city passed food and hotel taxes to make up for the shortfall, but the state's internal revenue division issued a directive stating that league employees are exempt from actually having to pay them. As for concession sales during the game, that money goes directly to the league. [Bloomberg]

Angelo Dundee -- the cornerman for Muhammad Ali -- died yesterday in Florida. He was 90, and his son said he had recently been treated for blood clots. Dundee's corner work with Ali was what prompted noted ring doctor Ferdi Pacheco to compare him to "Godzilla and Superman rolled into one," but he trained four other champions in his 60-year career, including Willie Pastrano, Carmen Pasilio, Jimmy Ellis, and Luis Rodriguez. [The Guardian and The New York Times]

Detroit Red Wings great Gordie Howe -- Mr. Hockey -- announced in a statement Thursday that he has had a "mild cognitive impairment" for the last seven to eight years. His family stressed that while the symptoms are similar, Howe hasn't actually been diagnosed with dementia, though that's what the AP is calling it. Howe, 83, was a 23-time all-star, and holds the NHL record for games played. [AP]

Former Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel has landed on his feet after resigning last year following a slew of tattoo parlor-based NCAA rules violations, agreeing to join the University of Akron as a "vice president of strategic engagement." You may be wondering: What does a vice president of strategic engagement do, exactly? Unclear! It's a new position, created just for Tressel, but apparently it merits a $200,000 annual salary. [Akron Beacon Journal]

Serena Williams was spotted in Paris on what looked to be a date with Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, currently the 83rd ranked tennis player in the world. Williams, who just broke up with rapper Common, has had the more successful career, but if those crazy kids in Wimbledon could make a relationship between a great tennis player and a not-so-great tennis player work, so can these two. [Page Six]

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