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Plenty of star power in NBA playoffs

We are now down to the final four teams in the NBA playoffs and I know Commissioner David Stern is somewhere smiling right now -- along with Nike, McDonald's and every other company in the NBA's world.

If you have been watching re­cent commercials, you have seen Vitamin Water and Mickey D's featuring Bryant and James in the same ad, with hopes that some 5-year-old is watching and wishing. Or should I say, asking mom and dad.

Famed director Spike Lee even jumped on board with his EPSN documentary "Kobe Doin' Work," which was one of the worst things I have watched this year. I am wondering who will be the next company to throw their hat into the ad war?

The past few seasons, fans have been getting the short end of the stick because big-name players could not make it past the second round -- and thus, push their sponsors' products all over the place. Now we've got four marketable names still swimming for life.

Let's break them down one by one.

The city of Cleveland has been searching for years for someone to provide a boost and it has one in LeBron, who is starting to become the face of the NBA and perhaps more im­portantly Nike (sorry, Kobe). James' likeable personality and ability to connect with today's young people is a marketing company's dream.

LeBron is on pace to surpass Tiger Woods as the No. 1 sports figure in the world. He's just eight wins away from making that happen.

Despite his sexual assault case and bland personality, Kobe still gets a lot of interest from people, and he attracts en­dorsements -- even if Nike con­tinues to struggle in sales of his shoe line. We might be starting to see his popularity take a hit if the Lakers fall on their face in the finals again.

Orlando's Dwight Howard is on his way too becoming the sec­ond coming of Shaq in terms of popularity at the center posi­tion. Yeah, he's inked to Adidas, but we all know that big men don't sell shoes very well. But that T-Mobile ad was clever.

Carmelo Anthony might be the black sheep of the group. Suspensions and on-court fights have kept him from laying claim to some big time endorsements, even if he is signed to Nike's Jor­dan Brand imprint.

Whether the next commer­cial ad features Kobe, LeBron, Dwight or Melo, this shameless marketing is exactly want the NBA needs in order to move be­yond the glory days of Jordan -- or will that ever happen?

Plenty of star power in NBA playoffs