No matter where you turn in life, people are looking to be on the cutting edge. That same holds true in professional sports and right here in North America, one organization has a key to open the biggest secret in sports pandora's box...globalization.
The league I speak of is the National Basketball Association.
Think a minute here: No other league in North America shares good relations with their foreign counterparts. The NBA definitely has some great imports such as Germany's Dirk Nowitzki or Belguim's Tony Parker even Eastern Bloc natives Vlade Divac and Toni Kukoc.
But something happened over the summer that really made people talk and that is when NBA free agent, Josh Childress, declined to play in the NBA but go to Olympiacos Piraeus in the EuroLeague.
What is also entertaining is one of the NBA's top young talents LeBron James may entertain offers from Europe. That means other people New York can talk to King James.
David Stern is the commissioner of the NBA. He is the modern day Pete Rozelle.
Pete Rozelle is the "gold-standard" to which all modern professional sports commissioners are measured. He guided the NFL from 1960-1989 and was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
In his tenure, he helped merge the NFL and AFL into one and he turned the Super Bowl from a championship game into a global phenomena.
David Stern should realize as he is a smart man that the NBA has great relations with foreign leagues and is the most popular of all the North American sports brands. The last two words that I used to describe Pete Rozelle on his efforts on the Super Bowl is "global phenomena."
The globalization of North American sports is one of the final frontiers of sport here. The NFL has tried on numerous occasions; World League, NFL Europe, regular season games, and has failed to recreate the Super Bowl for people in London, Beijing, and Tokyo.
The NHL has strong ties with Europe, but no so strong ties with Russia. Ask Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins what he had to do to go the NHL. Though more successful in the overseas aspect, the NHL is fighting to survive economically in Canada and try to gain strong support in the US.
Major League Baseball is so eerily similar to the shoes of the NBA. The talent is there. MLB stars have gone to Japan. They practically bring over the Japanese talent; see Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, and Daisuke Matsuzaka, and the Pirates organization just importing the first natural born player from India.
They even have the World Baseball Classic which is some what trying to bring the melting pot together. The problem with the WBC is the good ole USA the people don't care.
Look at how frenzied the nationals of Japan and Korea were for their teams. The lack-luster fanfare of American fans and the "leadership" of baseball czar Bud Selig is always in question.
The NBA has the brains in David Stern to look at the failures of their other leagues to see what they must do. You need to do two things:
*You need to learn from history.
*You need to make it matter.
History wrote that when Pete Rozelle was commissioner of the NFL and Lamar Hunt with the backing of AFL commissioner Al Davis, yes that same one who runs the Black Hole, put together a meeting between the champions of both leagues to determine who was the champion.
What turned into an "championship exhibition" morphed into what is practically a holiday in the US and a television event of more the 100 million US viewers.
David Stern and the NBA must realize that with EuroLeague becoming a force and it will only be time before a star like LeBron James defects to Europe needs to capitalize on this. Essentially what Stern should do is simply emulate Rozelle.
Emulate a championship in a Best of three, five, or seven between the NBA champion and the EuroLeague champion to determine who is the true World Champion.
Though it may take years to bloom like the Super Bowl, the rational thought David Stern must realize is that in America his competition in June is half filled MLB Stadiums, NASCAR, and Tiger Woods (notice I didn't say golf, how much did you watch when Tiger was not there????).
Develop a real World Championship. Develop a series annually that really determines dominance in basketball. If baseball had it it could be the New York Yankees vs. Yomuiri Giants (Japan's Yankees).
Basketball can finally be what it is and that is a global phenomona. A spectrum where the best takes on the very best.
People laugh and say Europe or the rest of the world don't have a shot. If you turn your windshield wipers on and remove the glow of the 2008 "Re-Deem" Team, the world seemingly improved to beat on the US in 2000 and 2004, and the US wasn't all that swell in the Pan-America games.
Why not find out who truly is the best team in the world? Is it the Boston Celtics or Olympiacos Piraeus??
David Stern surely has had a great run as NBA commish and we should applaud that, but he has a shot and the means to make the NBA force on the world's stage.