As the China Games continue involving the Orlando Magic, ClevelandCavaliers and the Chinese National Team, it dawned on me how basketball has truly become a global game. Recent international competitions haveshown that the American game has become a hodge-podge of individualselfishness, while from South America to Europe the game has transcendedto a complete team concept, which Dr. James Naismith would probablybe proud of.
Beyond the obvious realization about the globalization of the NBA and themarketing of its international stars, such as Dirk Nowitzki and Yao Ming lies a potential gold mine of untapped resources. Could the NBAfranchise survive in a European city? Was last week’s London exhibitiona chance to see what could be a mainstay in the coming decades?
The verdict may still be out regarding the Canada experiment. TheVancouver franchise fizzled, but the Toronto Raptors have consistentlybeen in the middle to upper half of the NBA’s average attendance(ranging from 8th to 17th over the last five seasons) and seem to have a good young core of talent to keep them afloat, including buddingsuperstar Chris Bosh.
With the growing influx of Hispanic born players in the NBA, it shouldnot be too far fetched to expect a team in Mexico or Puerto Rico within 20 years. But Europe? Standing upon a devil’s advocate soapbox, thiswould be a logistical nightmare for the executives, not to mention aprobable cold zone for the league’s elite. Could you imagine thebacklash of a top-20 caliber player on the downside of his career, say Vince Carter getting exported for talent and draft picks, and be leftto close out his career in Frankfurt? This would never fly, and Carterwould probably never show up. The players want to be in the spotlight: the American spotlight.
A well-educated source close to The Fourth String said in an informalinterview last night, that Olympic athletes have to arrive sometimesweeks ahead of the games’ opening slate to get used to the time change, and avoid a bad case of jet lag that would hinder their performance. Howwould the suits of the NBA schedule home games for a European team?Would they have to be home for weeks at a time and then go on month-long road trips to save time from constant international flights? How wouldthe networks be able to show marquee matchups live from London?Wednesday’s game was live and on at 11:30 a.m. PST.
Perhaps before getting the NBA’s feet wet in a Euro-franchise, Commissioner David Stern should try to instigate a “SuperLiga” of sorts,which pinned the MLS elite against the Primera División de Mexicana(PDFM). Imagine club champions from different regions of the world in a pool, then elimination format showcasing the top teams from Italy,Russia, Germany, Argentina, etc., as well as the San Antonio Spurs andCleveland Cavaliers. Top two from each league make it. I am warming upto this idea as I write it.
Rotate the sites of the “SuperLiga”: Rome, London, Mexico City,Barcelona, Portland (a little hometown love). Have the marketing guruspromote the hell out of the product in all proximate major cities and see what the attendance is like. If you can get 17,000 to attend onaverage, you’ve got yourself a potential site for a franchise. Memphishas gone down in attendance each year since they moved from Vancouver andthey could be moved again. Let’s get creative and institute a clause forany franchise that if they finish in the bottom five in attendancefigures for three consecutive seasons, they are to be moved to a ripeand ready city who would embrace the NBA.
Perhaps the 2017 Barcelona Grizzlies wouldn’t be out of the questionafter all.