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Predictions: 9 For '09 For The World Of Sports

Kobe Bryant
AP
Kobe Bryant

Let's start by being accountable for last year. I was right on the fact that the Olympics opening ceremony would be the most amazing spectacle is sports history. (I know, subjective).

I was right that the league networks would only make small gains.

I was right that all-you-can-eat became all the rage and I might still be right that the Cubs and related assets will sell for $980 million and that Charlie Weis will get bought out in '08.

I was wrong on saying Steve & Barry's was on the rise and that Nike would dump Michelle Wie (2009 is actually the last year of her current contract).

1.Kobe Bryant will lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA championship and become a true marketing icon again.

Once a marketing darling, Bryant will be restored. He'll add on to his deals with Nike, Vitaminwater and Activision.

2.There will be a UFC Fight in Madison Square Garden.

The biggest brand in mixed martials arts can't fight in New York State because the state is one of eight states that has athletic commissions that doesn't sanction fights. That will change and a big fight will take place at "The World's Most Famous Arena" in the fall of next year.

3.The IOC will take away the 2014 Olympics from Sochi, Russia.

This is probably the boldest prediction I've ever made. For the IOC to take back a winning city's bid would be a big deal, but I feel like if it's ever going to happen, it's going to happen now with Russia. I just think there's a possibility here considering not too much has been done, funding is going to be an issue as will security. Quietly, the U.S. TV networks bidding for the package that includes the 2014 games is worried about the logistical nightmare of this location.

4.By year's end, the Major League Baseball Network will become the most relevant league network.

They might have been the last of the four majors to launch their own network, but it will count the most. Launching Jan. 1, the MLB Network will be the largest launch in cable history with carriage deals that provide for viewing in more than 50 million households. Given what MLB did with MLB.com, we're expecting a great fresh look and commentary that will make viewers switch over after they watch their team's game and maybe ESPN's "Baseball Tonight."

5. Brett Favre will announce he's coming back immediately after the season.

After losing in the divisional playoffs, Favre—happy once again and sick of offseasons full of doubt—says he's coming back. He signs a two-year deal with the Jets that will take him through his 41st birthday.

6. A NASCAR Sprint Cup race will run at least one race without a full field of 43 cars.

Given the hard times, it's not that hard to guess that a 2009 race simply won't have enough sponsored cars to go with the full field of 43, which was implemented in 1998. It's believed that the last time a starting field had fewer cars than were called was in 1996, when only 41 cars ran in race that called for 42.

7.Plans for at least one major league stadium or arena that was supposed to be built is completely scrapped.

Can't call out which one it will be but stadium financing isn't going to be available for a while. Timetables on stadiums like the ones for the Nets, A's and Marlins will be thrown out of whack by at least a year. And one of the stadiums that is fully designed on paper will never make it to reality.

8.Court rules that tickets are leased, not owned.

The New England Patriots win their lawsuit against eBay's StubHub, setting a precedent that tickets bought by fans are technically leased, not owned, and that teams have the right to dictate how they are sold and what group of people they are sold to. This throws the entire secondary ticket market into flux.

9. More sports teams will be put up for sale in 2009 than any year in the last two decades.

Sure, now isn't the time to sell, but the economy is going to force even the most well heeled to put their teams on the market. Some will push to sell on a quick timetable so as not to lose millions if Obama's capital gains increases kick in.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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