Going Global: International Basketball

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            In the midst of heated discussion over Doc Rivers’ trade to the West Coast and the super human powers of Lebron James, it is hard to believe that there is any other worthwhile basketball league out there besides the NBA. But with an increasing number of international players on the courts and peaked interest in international leagues, there is a rising curiosity in the basketball courts overseas.

            I first became more closely acquainted with international basketball leagues during the pesky NBA lockout in the 2011-12 seasons. The option to go overseas became an attractive offer for a number of NBA players with salaries under $4 million.

Boston Celtic center Nenad Krstic took the opportunity to sign with CSKA Moscow in the Russias VTB United League while Nets point guard went with Turkey’s Besiktas Cola Turca on a one-year contract. While the lockout came to an eventual end, there was no doubt that the leagues overseas had been put on the radar to a larger degree.

           

Over the weekend, the 2013 FIBA EuroBasket tournament hosted in Ljubljana, Slovenia got underway. The European basketball championship has become a shining example over the years of powerhouse leagues that are producing illustrious results. On Friday Sept. 20th, Lithuania played Croatia who had defeated Ukraine 84-72 to reach the semifinals game for the first time in 18 years.

Unfortunately, the Croatian team couldn’t continue their roll into the finals and the title game was played between France – after winning on an upset to Spain in overtime – and Lithuania.

           

It is a serious miscalculation to not give international players attention, especially those players that have become staples in the NBA. A shining example would be the Mavericks power-forward Dirk Nowitzki who began his career playing for his homeland Germany before being drafted as the ninth pick in the 1998 NBA Draft.

Notwitzki is not only the first European-born player to win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award, but he also played a vital role in earning Dallas their first franchise championship in 2011.

Dirk is joined by many other familiar names playing far from home as the opening-night rosters for the 2012-2013 NBA season featured a record-breaking 84 international players from 37 countries and territories.

            As the interconnectedness of every aspect of life becomes more prominent on the main stage, the future of the NBA will reflect the growing globalized market. The most obvious illustration of this paradigm shift has occurred in the English Premier League across the pond. At the beginning of the 2013-14 season, less than a third of the players in Premier League games were English, meaning 152 of the 220 picked on the starting roster were foreign talent. Obviously, this model has numerous deviants from that of the NBA, but the picture being painted is quite similar.

            As the NBA increasingly adds international players to their roster and lower wage players increasingly begin considering overseas contracts more readily, the NBA will shift to reflect the growing global presence on the basketball courts.