The 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wrapped up it’s annual run in Las Vegas over the weekend. The “industry only” tradeshow welcomed 185,000 attendees to The Strip to get a preview of the latest in consumer devices, self-driving cars, 100-inch televisions and the new apps we will soon be downloading to our smart devices.
Along with the exhibitors, industry analysts, media and retail buyers, the show brings in dozens of the biggest names in sports to make appearances, try the new products and meet and greet attendees. There are also a number of sports icons that aren’t paid to be at the show, but they might be tech entrepreneurs themselves, or self-described “geeks” checking out the everchanging tech landscape. Smart convention goers and collectors read the “CES Daily” magazine to see where the biggest names will be that day, but if you are lucky, you might literally bump into an NFL owner or WWE wrestler.
It’s not always easy to get in. You’ll need to have a tech industry tie-in and register well ahead of time to have a shot, but if you know someone who goes, it might be worth sending some items with them and hoping for the best.
Early in the week, fhe CES show floor turns into small sports arena where a number of legendary sports stars could be spotted in the same convention hall in the span of ten minutes.
One is larger than life. Not only in terms of sports accomplishments, but also size. Recognizable at 7-foot-1-inches, and with a smile a mile wide, Shaquille O’Neal is a regular at CES and happily signed autographs and posed for pictures at the Ring exhibit, and made an appearance for Carnival Cruise Lines. In truth, this is one huge tradeshow that can make the former NBA MVP look small.
“I’m just a big geek, and I was a big geek in high school,” Shaq explained in a call before the show. “In high school, a friend of mine, John McDougal, helped me pass a government class and he was the first person I saw with one of those big Apple computers. I was impressed; he showed me computer keyboard commands and I was hooked. Being a geek is not bad.”
Hoops stars joining Shaq on the show floor included, Chris Webber, Baron Davis, Dennis Scott, Isiah Thomas and WNBA player Elena Delle Donne. Baron Davis is a burgeoning tech mogul and with the importance of sports technology, he was even tabbed to be CES “ambassador” for 2018.
Olympians are popular draws each year, and 2018 brought out some heavyweights in 8-time track and field gold medalist, Usain Bolt, while Olympic gymnast, Nastia Liukin, always enjoys meeting her fans. NFLer Terrell Owens was seen at the Samba TV exhibit and MLB pitcher, Trevor May, was a panelist at sports and esports discussion. Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark” Mark Cuban, was walking the aisles, possibly looking to invest. “The Champ” Floyd Mayweather had his own event for his Mayweather Boxing + Fitness VR app launch.
CES is a rare opportunity for collectors to see their sports heroes away from the stadiums and arenas where they are typically separated by fencing and plentiful security. Be on the lookout, many of the exhibitors have some unique swag giveaways that are CES exclusives. Again this year, the stars let down their guard and are extremely approachable. They will pose for selfies, sign anything you put in front of them and happily carry on a conversation about their favorite gadgets.
Kris Bryant, Jimmy Rollins, Tony Romo, Marques Colston, Eric Winston, Stephanie McMahon and other WWE personalities, NASCAR’s Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Daniel Suarez were among others making appearances.
Like I said, CES is an “industry only” event, but over the years, that seems to have been loosened a little when it comes to getting a badge. With 185,000 attendees, it’s advisable to pack your patience and a couple Sharpies; while “Rule No. 1” is always be courteous of other attendees and fellow collectors. Next year’s show will will run January 9-12, 2019 in Las Vegas.