Although the NBA is locked out, fans may still get to see their favorite ballers in action this fall. That’s because current rumors find several players taking their talents overseas to play in other professional leagues if this year’s NBA season is cancelled.
With all-stars like Deron Williams, Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and yes, even Kobe Bryant apparently fielding offers to temporarily play in European leagues if the lockout sticks, will fans see a mass exodus of NBA players hooping it up in other countries while the labor dispute is settled?
If they do, then two disparaging schools of thought will emerge within the basketball community. David Stern and the league office will be doing cartwheels, as this would bring a broader exposure to the NBA at the right time.
Suffice to say, the game of basketball has never been more popular worldwide. The most recent piece of supporting evidence came courtesy of last month’s NBA draft, which saw four international players selected with lottery picks, the first time that’s ever happened.
Couple that with German-born Dirk Nowitzki’s Finals MVP performance, and basketball has become a hot commodity internationally—especially in Europe.
Giving European fans a firsthand look at some of the league’s best do their thing in countries like Spain, Greece, and Turkey would give Stern a golden opportunity to capitalize on this emerging fan base; having a whole new legion of NBA followers would translate into more revenue from merchandise sales and international television ratings.
But while the commissioner should be giddy over this idea, current diehard NBA fans shouldn’t, mainly because not much good can transpire from seeing these stars in meaningless games halfway around the globe.
If I bleed purple and gold, I’m not exactly thrilled to hear that Kobe is “entertaining” the idea of going international. Lakers fans don’t need me telling them that Bryant is already treading on dangerously-weary tires—making all those deep playoff runs will do that to you.
Instead of playing games in another league, shouldn’t Bryant be using the lockout to rest his aging body? Don’t get me wrong, Kobe’s still got plenty of game left, but if he starts getting involved with a European club, much of that game may evaporate by the time he gets back into the NBA groove.
And while age isn’t a problem for the likes of Anthony, Stoudemire, and Williams (who are both in their primes), career-threatening injuries are. What happens if (god forbid) ‘Melo or Deron shreds his knee while taking the court in a Euro league?
That would be a double slap in the face of Knicks and Nets fans because, for one, the injury would occur when the league wasn’t even operating, and second, it would happen while they weren’t chasing a Larry O’Brien trophy.
So if these rumors come to fruition and some of the league’s elite talents really do spend this season overseas, current NBA fans should worry, because for them, little good can come of this.