Is Nike running an anti-adidas logo blockout in this Team USA Olympic promotional photo?

As our favorite Sports Biz reporter, Darren Rovell from CNBC, points out— Nike is the main sponsor for Team USA basketball, however Dwight Howard (#11 with ball) is the only athlete without a Nike sponsorship on the team. He is signed with the adidas brand.

So keeping that in mind, Rovell asks is it a strange coincidence that Coach K is mysteriously sitting in this photo, with his left foot blocking Howard’s adidas logo-ed sneaker?
When have you ever seen a coach awkwardly sitting on a stool in a team photo before? But wait, there’s more.

Also of note, the whole team is in height order except for Howard who appears to be shorter than the man standing behind him (Chris Bosh). Could just be another coincidence, but Howard is then able to carry the ball and not place his arms behind his back, thus covering the Nike logo on his shorts.

This photo is part of a news release by Nike hyping their new Olympic jerseys. I’ve lambasted Rovell in the past for some ‘over the top’ conspiracy theories (See: ‘Did Kevin Garnett ruin the moment when he screamed ‘Anything is possible’?), but I think I’m starting to see what he’s saying with these things. Nike, those crafty bastards.

He followed up with Nike and asked an inside source about this Team USA conspiracy photo. The response he got was that there was no conspiracy, it’s just an ‘artistic’ photo and yes, all those things must just be coincidences. But he’s done a good job of selling me on the clever posing these brands do to stiff the competition. Do you buy it?

I can just imagine this kind of thing going to the extreme. What if Nike sponsored the whole Olympic basketball tournament and forced NBC to blur out Dwight Howard on every play in the live television broadcast? Some Nike exec will probably be sitting in his mansion, stroking a hairless cat and shouting, “Who ‘doesn’t want to sign with our brand now, MR. HOWARD?!!?”

Check out Darren’s full post for other details:

CNBC: USA Basketball Team Photo: Artistic or Logo Conspiracy?, July 3, 2008