Potato greetings hot in the NBA

When Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association recently scored his 30,000th career point, the milestone was marked in an unusual way: he received a potato with his picture on it along with a note of congratulations.

Unsure who sent the celebratory tuber, Nowitzki took to social media, according to a March 21 story in The Wall Street Journal.

“Whoever sent me this potato — much appreciated,” the 19-year veteran forward wrote on his Twitter account.

Nowitzki wasn’t the only NBAer to be blindsided by the unusual greeting. In subsequent days, Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat received one that depicted him and the musician DJ Khaled. Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors, who is nursing a knee injury, received one with a note wishing him a speedy recovery. “Hope this stupid potato eases the pain,” the note said in part. And C.J. Miles, a guard for the Indiana Pacers, received one calling him “one of the most underrated players in the game,” after he ascended to No. 7 all time on the team in three-pointers made.

So who is behind this potato-greeting trend? Riad Bekhit, owner of the Bay Area start-up Potato Parcel fessed up.

“It wasn’t some crazy fan, it was me,” he was quoted as saying in the WSJ story.

Bekhit is a different kind of potato shipper, charging around $15 for a personalized potato that is not meant to be eaten but rather sent as a greeting. For that fee, customers can upload an image and message that are affixed to the spud before being mailed to a designated address.

Bekhit said his company has sent more than 40,000 potatoes so far. But his company is not alone in its quirkiness.

Competitors include Mail a Spud and MysteryPotato, which also provide a similarly unconventional greeting service using the staple of the produce department. But for Bekhit, the key was to employ unconventional marketing to stand out, thus the blitz to the big names in the NBA.

Bekhit appeared on “Shark Tank” last year with Potato Parcel founder Alex Craig to pitch the idea to the notoriously critical panel. While they received two offers for funding, neither was from Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who agreed it was an effective marketing tactic.

While Bekhit’s spuds have reached many of their targets, including one to Houston Rockets guard James Harden, who was complimented on his beard in the spud-o-gram, others were air balls.

The unacknowledged tuber sent to NBA superstar LeBron James carried the note, “What can I say? You inspired me to be a beast in the potato biz.”

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