The talks of an expansion into Europe for the NBA have picked up in recent years and this summer it was no exception, with talks about it surfacing yet again, following this recent trend. Earlier this month, Adam Silver commented on the potential expansion of the NBA to Europe saying that, while he does not see it in the near future, he left in the air the idea that it is inevitable. The talk came after another thought of expansion to Europe, this time by the NFL. What could this mean to the league? What are the pros’ and cons’ of such expansion?
Let’s just get this out of the way. Either the league completely and dramatically changes the way the regular season goes (82 games, around 3 per week) it is impossible for any of this to happen. You do not like the fact that you have to go from Cleveland to Oakland in 2 days? Try playing in California and then going to Germany and returning to US to play in Texas. You can even give 3 days or 4 of rest and it still would be too hard for the players to go through. So you would have cut the number of games in about half (this is just an estimate) for it too even be possible/acceptable for the players association and I do not think any fan wants to see that. Then we have the competition factor. While European teams have improved and are no longer the laughing stock compared to US teams as before, it still is pretty unbalanced. While they would win some games, it’s very doubtful we would see any of them even approaching the playoffs, let alone compete against the likes of the upper echelon of the Western Conference. Let’s remember, Andrea Bargnani was a rising star in Italy. These teams would also have to battle for free agents, and we have seen how hard it is for even Toronto, which is right next to the United State’s border to lure big name free agents. Now imagine European clubs trying to convince players to leave and go to a new country.
Arguments in Favour:
From a marketing standpoint this is a dream by the NBA. The possibility of hitting the European market has the NBA salivating With a relatively high average income, Europe could bring millions of new revenue into the NBA and perhaps cement the second favorite sport among Europeans (yes there is no way football, or soccer as some call it, gets surpassed). Also it could be the first step into truly globalizing the NBA and a sign that other expansions could soon follow. It’s also happening more frequently that NBA teams play Europe teams in preseason games and what we are seeing (for what is worth) is an increase in the competitiveness of the games, not blowouts.There are a couple of European teams that could give a fight to many NBA teams. Teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona have looked to lure former and current NBA players and of course there is always the allure of drafting a young stud from Europe and hoping that he develops into a Dirk Nowitzki (just this summer we got the case of Prozingis).While still not on par with their American counterparts, developments have been made and an access to a different breed of players could reduce the gap even more.
Now let’s take a look at what teams would be involved in this expansion if it was to happen:
- Real Madrid and Barcelona: Obviously the two Spanish behemoths have to be involved in any expansion talks. They are a popular destination for NBA veterans looking to play on a competitive league and provide us with some of the best international talents: Nikola Mirotić, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Mario Hezonja, among others. Spain boosts a stable basketball environment, and since many current and former players come from this area, they should have less challenges recruiting talent to compete with the rest of the NBA. Regarding fans, Spain boasts some of the best in the basketball league. You just need to look at the environment in the Real Madrid Vs Barcelona games. They are probably the country in Europe where it would have more success, both talent wise and regarding a fanbase.
- London: As indicated by the preseason and regular season games to be played there, London seems to be a destiny the NBA would like to include in their expansion. However, London does not feature any top European teams, having never won a Euroleague Title. The appeal here would be from a pure marketing standpoint. However, the cultural diversity in this city could make it more appealing on a country where basketball is not viewed very highly. While basketball seems to be increasing in preferences, it still does not draw many attentions. Arenas likely would not be filled unless you had a Lebron or Kevin Durant regularly in there, which I’m almost sure it would not happen. Nonetheless, the appeal of the city itself could be enough to attract some quality players. However, when you can go to New York, Los Angeles or Miami, do you really consider London?
- Germany: In Germany, the likely club would be Bayern Munich, as this team has the financial means to have a spot in NBA world, specifically with the construction of an arena. Obviously with the Dirk factor, it would be interesting to see the reaction of the crowd to an NBA expansion and how it would sell among fans. Previous experiences tell us that it would be such expansion would be welcomed. The German’s having seen a rising overall increasing in basketball talent in recent years, and with an NBA team located in their country the popularity could draw more talent to the region. If Dirk served as an ambassador and, say, Dennis Schröder went there as a free agent, we could see a competitive team there that would draw more interest than your average European team.
- Italy: Features some of the better teams in Europe, who happen to have the most wins in Euroleague. Italy is the nation whose teams have won more times in this competition (13 times against 12 by Spain) so they would figure to be included in expansion talks. Teams like Olimpia Milano and Treviso are some of the candidates. An increase in basketball popularity could be catapulted to never seen before levels if a NBA team played there. Being the country of fashion, and Milano the city of fashion, with the recent trend in clothing in the NBA, players could look to improve their marketability by heading there and signing contracts with fashion agencies. Obviously this has to do more with possible income than actually having a competitive team, where some luck would be needed to draw top-tier players to fill an arena.
- Greece: With Olympiacos and Panathinaikos as two of the most dominant teams in European basketball, as far as competition goes. These two would probably be among the teams that gave the most fight to any NBA team. However, financially there are not many reason’s to assume they could both cope with American teams and have the desired marketability effect (especially during an economic crisis they are in). If we are talking 5-10 years from now when the crisis is an afterthought then yes, an NBA team would draw significant attraction (however with a relatively low population and an insane number of islands could create mobility issues and have consequences in the attendance).
- France: Paris is a desired city among Adam Silver for a European expansion city. The French have become dominant recently in international play, and with all the success of current French players in the league, a team would seem to flourish in this market. Despite not having a strong league, the allure of the city could bring talented players to a supposed NBA team. One possibility would be Tony Parker serving as an ambassador and, with the strong performances by the French in international games the possibility of embracing a team has been increasing year by year. With a population of over 2.25 million, this city could easily support a team and take on the costs of building an NBA arena. We cannot forget the fact that Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and that, for players’ wives would be a big factor in moving to France to play basketball.
By: Step-Back J
Edited By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17