While on the NBA Europe Live Tour, which featured NBA teams playing in Turkey, Italy, Spain and England, I pondered this question: Is it possible for the league to have teams that reside in Europe?
I've talked to commissioner David Stern on several occasions about this subject, and he contends that due to scheduling, logistical nightmares and time-zone changes, it is out of the question at this time. He also told me that the All-Star game would be too difficult to have in Europe because of the same reasons at this time. He always ends such statements with "at this time." (There's the hint.)
Do I think it's possible? Yes. There are a lot of variables, but if planned correctly, European expansion could and should happen.
I used to be one of those purists that thought basketball is our game and that European players are inferior. Am I right? Who cares? The real truth came from Bill Russell when I was complaining about foreign players and their inclusion. He said, as an African-American, I never should complain about inclusion. So I'm all for adding teams from overseas.
I agree that scheduling would be a huge problem. For example, if there were a team in Spain, it would have approximately an eight-hour flight to the United States. Then when it got here, it would have to deal with the time zone change, a seven-hour difference if it played on the West Coast. How could you give the team fair time to adjust?
The solution is simple: Add approximately six new franchises at once.
They would make up the new Euro Division, with teams based in Italy, Spain, France, England and Greece. Clubs from North America would have to spend two weeks of the regular season in Europe before the All-Star game and again after the All-Star game. To further accommodate this expansion across the Atlantic Ocean, the NBA would have to shorten the schedule to 70 games. (I feel it's worth shortening the season to add the global market to the league!)
I know the next comment from my former NBA purist brothers is: "The NBA is already watered down in talent. These new teams would dilute the league even more!" Do I really have to bring up the Olympics or world championships? Or the fact that American dominance is over?
We have seen Spain, Greece and other countries fare extremely well against our so-called best. The world has caught up. (OK, there – I said it!)
Growing up in New York City, this reminds me of the time when all of the hot rappers came from New York – Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Run-D.M.C., etc. Then someone realized that, damn, they're rapping in Cali, too, with N.W.A. and Ice-T. Even Coolio ain't half-bad. (OK, I'm overdoing it.) Then came the Dirty South with Outkast and Dungeon Family. Then the Midwest popped off with Bone Thugs and Common … you get my drift?
There is talent out there, and it's creeping into the NBA instead of making a splash all at once. Don't sleep! Do you really think a team featuring Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Dirk Nowitzki couldn't contend? Hell, the past two MVPs came from Canada and Germany. Yao Ming could be next.
So, come on – expand your mind and be global. The commissioner is. And trust me, you will be wearing that Team Italia fitted and the Greece throwback one day. Count on it.