When basketball fans think of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, a lot of them think that it is just where the NBA’s rotational bottomfeeders flunk out or where the D-League’s elite go when they decide to up their paychecks.
And in many cases, that is what it is.
But that isn’t what it will always be. With impactful talent coming from Europe in the last few years like Nikola Mirotic and Nicolas Batum making names for themselves already, it is clear to see that there is a crop of players to be had in Europe.
The EuroLeague itself already stands as the second best and most competitive medium for basketball players around the world. The Euroleague has been responsible for dozens of NBA players, past and present, and is one of the main sources of draft prospects, especially high picks, in the NBA Draft yearly.
As of October 28th, 2014, the NBA had a recording settingly high number of 101 international players. The Spurs (of course) ranked first in the league with nine international players. Canada had the most NBA players from their country with 12 and France at 10, with Australia following with nine and Brazil with seven.
The international players within the NBA have become integral parts of their team, many even championship winning pieces. Just look at the below table of players on NBA rosters on opening night of this year from NBA.com. The league would be a different place without these guys. There is an undeniably important relationship between the NBA and international players.
There are more than a few All Stars and even Hall of Famers on this list. And, in reality, that could just be the start.
The NBA isn’t new to International talent. Guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, and Steve Nash have been household names since I can remember.
The ultimate goal to achieve not only the best international players in the NBA but the best international basketball possible would be to morph FIBA into the megaleague that FIFA has created.
One league for every country, whose top teams could compete in regional tournaments and a “Champions League” of sorts, as well as major cups, similar to soccer’s UEFA cup. Not only would this expand the reach of the great sport that is basketball, but it would create a huge market and industry for international play.
Think just how big the FIFA World Cup is.
Now compare that to the FIBA World Cup this past summer, where Team USA (shockingly) took home the gold. The FIFA World Cup generated $4 Billion, according to Forbes.
According to research from Statista.com, in the 2012 – 2013 season, the NBA racked in $4.56 billion in total revenue.
The bottom line is there is a lot of room for FIBA to create a giant World Cup capable of bringing in revenue numbers similar to an entire NBA season!
But money isn’t the only draw. What makes soccer such a beautiful game is the worldliness of it. You can become a pro no matter where you grow up, as there is sure to be some set of steps you can take to get noticed in your country if you have the skills.
That is something that the sport of basketball needs. Besides soccer and possibly hockey, basketball is probably the most international game out there, as we have proven with all the great international NBA players and the already formed and successful FIBA World Cup.
There needs to be platforms for players from across the world to utilize their skills and develop into what could be one day very talented basketball players. We have seen it in some parts of the world, like South America (Argentina and Brazil mostly) and scattered European nations like France, Italy, Turkey, and Spain.
However there are many places in the world that have real potential to be basketball powerhouses, like Israel, Croatia, Serbia, Russia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and even Great Britain.
So, the final proposal and ultimate goal, is as follows.
A giant web of national leagues, all with their own systems of playoffs and champions, similar (and possibly better) than the NBA’s format. For example, Great Britain’s British Basketball League (BBL, yes it’s a thing) would suddenly come into the spotlight as the premier destination for talented Brits to show off their game.
The same would apply to, I don’t know, Serbia. Serbia already has Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade in the Euro League, and it has it’s own league as well, like many of these nations.
In fact, most of these nations have their own leagues, they are just very low scale and in need of some funding and publicity. If FIBA were to take all these leagues under their wing to form what FIFA has created, the basketball world would be a better place.
There could be a lot of little Ginoblis, Nowitzkis, Duncans, Parkers, and Gasols out there that the world will never see due to lack of opportunity, not lack of skill. Its time to change that.