It has been more than a year since O.J. Mayo, thought at one point to be the second coming of LeBron James, was “dismissed and disqualified” from the NBA for 24 months after he violated the league’s anti-drug policy.
Mayo wasn’t a once-in-a-generation talent, but he was pretty close; the guard had the speed, physicality, and athletic creativity that even other elite athletes lacked, and when he was drafted out of USC as the third overall pick in the 2008 draft, the thought was Mayo was destined for a myriad of future All-Star games. Those prognostications never materialized, and in light of the NBA’s ruling, Mayo has taken a step back from the game.
According to Ryan Jones of the Bleacher Report, who first profiled Mayo for Slam as a dominant high schooler at Huntington (WV) High School, Mayo has essentially disappeared:
The basketball world doesn’t know what’s going on with Mayo, nor is it particularly interested in trying to find out. With his present a mystery and his basketball future in serious doubt, his past was the one thing it seemed possible to understand.
It’s not that Mayo has kept a low public profile — he has separated himself from both the basketball world and his own circle, or at least those whom Jones tried to contact to see how Mayo has spent his time away from the NBA. What’s bizarre about Jones’ feature is that Mayo was in the prime of his career at the time of his suspension, nearing 30 and, though recovering from injuries, still a valuable contributor for the Milwaukee Bucks. That he would incur the suspension is in itself shocking — only one other player in the past decade (Chris “Birdman” Andersen) suffered the same punishment — but to then completely disappear is a more shocking matter.
We’re no longer talking about a child, of course. O.J. Mayo will be 30 in November. He will have earned about $45 million in eight NBA seasons. At this point, there is no measure by which he is not an adult, responsible for his choices, good and bad. The stakes now go beyond trivialities like academic eligibility and mere reputation. This is about his career. His life.
Thinking about all this brought me back to something Mayo said 10 years ago, on that summer afternoon in Los Angeles. “What’s the average time you live on earth—like 60, 65 years?” he asked. “Basketball’s gonna take up half of it. I’d like to be successful in the other half, too.”
Over at Vice Sports, Aaron Gordon has a fascinating piece up about intellectual property rights and tattoos. He opens with the case of the NBA2Kvideo game series, which is currently being sued by a tattoo artist agency over the games’ digitally recreated tattoos, which appear on the virtual bodies of players such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. But copyright issues get murky when we are talking about tattoos. So just who exactly owns those inked images?
On the face of it, the answer seems obvious. Tattoo artists charge for their work, with a reasonable expectation that the art will be seen by others, according to Yolanda King, Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University College of Law and counsel at Advitam IP, an intellectual property law firm. For example, when Shawn Rome gives James a tattoo, he is giving James an implied license to display the tattoo in the arena, on television, and anywhere else a camera catches him. Rome owns the design, and James owns the right to display it on his body.
But when that tattoo is on the body of a celebrity, and the design gets copied, re-created and sold for profit by third parties, the ownership issue becomes much thornier. NBA2K publicly touts its ultra-realistic graphics and player design, specifically singling out tattoo recreation as an element of that realism. It features specific NBA player tattoos prominently in promotional materials. However, the game’s makers didn’t get permission from the legal rights holder of those designs, Solid Oak Sketches. So the basic question before the Southern District of New York courts is this: is what NBA 2K does with tattoos any different than if the game’s makers had used an unlicensed photograph to promote their product?
Now that LeBron James has his first championship ring, his narrative is complete. A brief history:
Finally, after several drama-clogged months, LeBron James announced his intentions. He called a public meeting in the Roman Forum, at the very spot from which Marc Antony had addressed his countrymen after the death of Julius Caesar. (Some found this choice of venue distasteful.) ‘I have decided,’ James declared, ‘to take my tridents to Sicily.’
“This came as a surprise to many: the gladiatorial scene in Sicily was rather provincial, its arena small and poorly attended. There were, however, other dominant fighters in Sicily with whom James was eager to team — a lion named Jade and a dancing bear named Squash. From then on, they fought exclusively as a trio, doing well sometimes and not so well at other times. Spectators around the empire found this all to be rather anticlimactic. Interest in gladiator fighting dwindled, and many scholars believe it is no coincidence that the sport was officially banned, without public outcry, just a few decades later.