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Friday, August 8, 2008

Is Europe the league of the future?

With the departure of Josh Childress and a handful of other NBA talent, is the European League becoming a legitimate alternative?

On the face of it, I’d say a big fat ‘no way’. Digging deeper, I am not so sure. The revelation of the Italian team offering Lebron James $50 million a season certainly is enticing. Would he take it? Sources claim he’d consider it. The dollar is very weak compared to the Euro and the European leagues don’t operate under a salary cap. Kobe said if he was offered $40 million a year to play in “…Italy, Greece, Russia? Yeah, I’m there. Simple as that.” Was he joking? Likely. I mean, who’d play ball in Russia for any amount of money?

But seriously folks. With the ref scandal and the weak American dollar, this exodus may not be over. Will the elite talent jump ship? That’s the question. The globalization of the game helps the European league’s appeal. The money, for now, appears to be legit. Just like the OKC/NBA experiment has yet to be proven successful long-term, I remain skeptical that European money can pay these mega-salaries long-term. It just hasn't been proven yet.

I think the NBA will have Kobe and LeBron for a while longer. However, strong mid-level NBA talent looking for superstar dollars may be able to get it overseas in leagues seeking to be global power players in the pro basketball circuit. The fans will follow the players, right? All you need is a satellite dish.

Ironically, Stern talks about NBA overseas expansion and the growth of the league, while shrinking it here by moving franchises to smaller U.S. markets. While Stern preaches expansion, Europeans are building their talent levels up. Could they compete globally with the NBA brand of basketball? Of course. The Olympics have proven the U.S. is vulnerable. Could the “World Championship” of basketball actually become just that? Could the NBA be losing its grip on market dominance?

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