Dick Vitale was honored Monday night with the greatest honor a former basketball coach can receive. The University of Detroit has named their court after the coach-turned-celebrity, an honor reserved for a special class of greats in the game.
Say what you will about Vitale's (ahem) exuberance, but there are few people who have done more for the game of college basketball than Vitale.
A coach at Detroit in the mid-1970's, Vitale had a 78-30 record, taking his team to the 1977 NCAA Tournament. Vitale eventually became the athletic director before leaving to coach the Detroit Pistons. After flaming out in the NBA, Vitale landed at ESPN. The rest, as they say, is history…baby!
The honor got me thinking: if I could have anything in sports named after me, what would it be? Now, let's be honest, I'm not getting honored with my name on a court anytime soon. Unless…
Nothing in sports comes for free any more and everything, be it pro or college, has naming rights attached. You can put your name on everything from an entire stadium to the small room where college kickers sit to watch film for the right price.
With that in mind, here are some of the coolest places in sports to have your name remembered.
THE BASKETBALL COURT
As I said, there is no bigger thrill for a college basketball coach than to have his or her name on a court. But what about the guy who designed the court? Eh, what about him?
I'll be honest, if I had enough money and Rutgers would let me do it, I would totally do this. I'm not above it.
Now for more serious suggestions. If I were a multi-millionaire and didn't think I could afford my own sports franchise, I'd seriously consider paying for the naming rights a stadium or arena. Naming rights are always so corporate and boring. The Mercedes Benz Superdome? Boring. AT&T Park? Lame.
The only buildings with any personality anymore are the ones with real people's names on them. Lambeau Field. Jerry's World. You get the point.
I don't think Jerry Jones would give up the naming rights to his building to anyone but himself, but Cowboys Stadium isn't even the best building to have your name on anyway. New or old, that honor will always go to Yankee Stadium. Having your name on Yankee Stadium would mean you've made it in New York. And if you can make it there…
Let's not limit our involvement with the team to just home games by putting our name on a stadium. What about putting our name on a jersey. Heck, every sports fan dreams of having his or her name on the back of the jersey, but has anyone considered putting your name on the front?
If the best team in the world can have the Qatar Foundation on the front of their jerseys (basically just a group of people with gobs and gobs of money) why can't we make our own foundation? Then, not only would the best players in the world have your name on their chest, but so would millions of fans. Brilliant.
If you can't afford to put your name on the jerseys, what about just the shoes? Nike puts the Air Jordan logo on many of their top-selling shoes, so why not grease Phil Knight's palms a little and see if you can include your own personal message on the shoes as well.
I bet you didn't know I got that version of Air Jordans for my Bar Mitzvah. Well, if I had enough money, you'd know it now.
I honestly can't believe this hasn't happened yet: donor names on college jerseys or helmets. At some point, some college will put their top donor's signature in their logo...has anyone inspected Oklahoma State's logo recently? And how cool would it be to have your name on your favorite team's helmets?
You could even leave little messages for people or, if the money was right, change it up each week like teams swap their helmets these days. It's a never-ending opportunity for branding.
THE CONCESSION STANDS
Now, lowering your monetary output even more, it can't be too hard to rent out a concession stand at your favorite ballpark or arena.
In most cases, the stands are run by the in-house catering service, so once you set your menu and train some people to cook your food, you probably don't even have to be there to manage the joint.
Plus, how proud would you feel to see thousands of people line up to pay money for the pleasure of taking a bite out of your namesake? Engorgingly proud.
The reason corporations pay for naming rights is to get their name and logo in front of millions of fans who come to the games and watch on TV. But there are a host of private, team-only areas that you can underwrite that help a program survive just as much as a big name on the top of a scoreboard.
If you donate 50 computers, most schools will name a computer lab after you. If you donate a dozen toilets, you can probably get bathroom or two in your name. If it were me…I'd aim a little higher.