A Proposal for NBA Globalization

Tim SeemanAnalyst IMarch 4, 2009

It was one subject of a Bill Simmons column on ESPN.com, and it's something that comes up more and more these days when people talk about the future of the NBA.  That subject, as suggested by the headline, is globalization.

The NBA has always been a league whose teams are vulnerable to relocation (see Seattle Sonics, Vancouver Grizzlies, and Charlotte Hornets), and there's a slew of teams losing money and fans at a rapid pace in these hard economic times.  One of them is my hometown team, the Milwaukee Bucks.

I have to admit that I'm not an avid NBA fan or Bucks fan by any stretch of the imagination.  I'm only a casual follower and will occasionally watch games on TV (which might make me part of the problem), but I would be one of many who would, at least, be disheartened by a professional team leaving Milwaukee.

Now, here are the problems with the Bucks franchise, outlined vaguely by the Simmons column linked above.  First of all, the owner, Senator Herb Kohl, is the anti-Mark Cuban.  Where you'll see Cuban on the floor at Mavericks away games, Kohl can never get to Bucks games because of his work as a public servant.

One result of that distance has been a lackluster front office for the past 25 years or so.  Incompetent general managers and coaches lead to bad basketball teams, and that's just what the Bucks have been for the past six or seven years.  

All this incompetence leads to the vicious cycle of disinterested fans, leading to less money for the franchise, leading to the inability to sign good players, which leads to a bad basketball team.

Another big part of the Bucks' problem is the arena they play in.  The Bradley Center is the fourth-oldest arena in the league, and with no fan interest in the team, there's even less interest in building a new arena for the team.

And even though the Bucks aren't the model NBA franchise, preseason games in China drew sell-out crowds, which shows how much interest the world has in any NBA basketball, good or bad.

All this makes the Bucks a prime candidate for relocation, whether domestically or internationally.

There is always a sense of betrayal with a team relocation.  That's why, as a "fan" of a prospective mover, I wouldn't want the Bucks to move within the United States.  I would want them to go global, with a little twist.

My proposal for globalization, having a team supported by two cities, one American and one abroad (the Milwaukee/London Bucks, for example), could solve a couple potential problems the NBA might face in actually having a team in Europe.

The first  and biggest problem is travel.  It still takes a long time to jump the pond, and it would be hard, even on NBA bodies, to take frequent trans-Atlantic trips during the course of an NBA season.  

Two homes would also allow the team to spend extended time in the United States and not to spend it as a "visitor."

The Milwaukee/London Bucks could have a standard west coast or Texas road trip, then play three or four home games in Milwaukee.  After that, they go south to play New Orleans and Orlando and Miami, go back to Milwaukee for a couple more games, play a few games in New York, Boston, and Jersey, and then fly to London for more home games.  

If more teams followed the "sister city" model, a similar pattern could be followed in Europe (road games in Paris or Rome, for example).

In my mind, this schedule would be a lot less demanding, and it would eliminate long stretches of home and road games that would happen otherwise.

Having two homes would also mean more fans following the team.  Fans in Milwaukee and London might consider it a treat to have the Bucks in town for a week or two, and it would make people more willing to go to the games while they're in town.  This would especially be the case if these teams became championship contenders.

And, of course, more fans means more money for owners, for the league, and for the players, which is the ultimate goal of any team relocation.

A plan like this would have its own problems, of course, but if globalization has to happen, I think a system like this would appease many people.  Fans in America, fans in Europe, owners, and players could all find things to like about a solution like this...at least, I think they could.

What say you?