The NBA vs the Rest of the World

I was reading the transcript of the press conference that Commissioner Stern of the NBA and Jordi Bertomeu of the EuroLeague held in Barcelona this week.

I was just trying to keep up to speed on things, but somethings that Jordi Bertomeu said really got me thinking.

We want to make our basketball visible around the world. The Euroleague is already seen in 120 countries, and thanks to this platform with the NBA and David, we have the opportunity
to reach more of our target.”

and

Jordi Bertomeu on Europeans in the NBA
“I believe the main problem is not that players go away, because they go and come back, too. We have to grow and make Euroleague Basketball attractive enough that they don’t go away. That’s our job.

I guess I never really followed the business aspirations of the Euroleague, but one thing becomes amazingly clear in reading his remarks. Mr Bertomeu doesnt want to be a minor league or feeder system to the NBA. He wants to compete with the NBA.

The guy sure seems smart. Its the brilliant, if someone allows you to do it to them, scorpion and frog approach to business. The scorpion professes his love for the frog. The frog puts the scorpion on his back and takes him across the pond that the scorpion would not otherwise be able to crosee. On the otherside the scorpion basically looks at the frog, says “thanks for the ride, but Im still a scorpion” and stings and kills the frog.

I, like I think a lot of my brethren in the NBA, thought that we were leveraging the EuroLeagues to develop talent that we brought over here to improve the level of play in our games. We at the NBA brag over and over how our support of development of basketball around the world, starting with the Dreamteam, has lead to international players progressing far enough to reach the NBA. Jordi wants to say thank you for all your work, from now on, they stay here.

After reading this, and Im only surmising here, Jordi may feel that he can use the NBA as a frog to get his league across the pond and prove his league is the NBA’s equal

Smart guy.
Why not let the NBA spend tons of money around the world to develop the game of basketball. For the Euroleague its simply a marketing subsidy. Why not let the NBA pay their own way to come over and use their biggest stars to promote and brand Euroleague teams, league and players to his fans and customers. Why not let them play Euroleague teams. Euroleague can make some money from the games and if the Euroleague teams win, start defining to not just non American players how good the league is, but to American players as well. If players anywhere in the world, including the USA start understanding that Euroball is as good, and in the eyes of some purists, better basketball than the NBA, why wouldnt American players choose playing Euroleague instead of the NBA ? Why wouldnt non American players choose to stay here rather than go to the NBA ?

Maybe Im seeing something thats not there. But I would prefer not to underestimate possible competition. Jordi is absolutely right to keep NBA teams coming over there, and supporting his players going to the USA. NBA players can become global brands and the more international players that beome global brands, single name players like Dirk, Pau, Yao, Tony, the more credence to his argument that their basketball is as good as NBA basketball, and the brilliance of it all is that the NBA teams pay for it on both sides. We pay the players salaries. We pay to develop them into brands. We pay to come to Europe. We pay their teams to get players out of their contracts and help subsidize the teams. The money right now is on the American side, so why not let the Americans foot the bills. They do it for the Olympics, why not Euroleague ?

I’m reading a really good book, Behavioral Corporate Finance, and it discusses how executives approach business decisions and one of the recurring themes reflects arrogance in the decision making process.

Is the NBA showing arrogance by presuming that its our job to build basketball around the world and that we will be the primary beneficiary ? Is our arrogance blinding us to the possibility that we are subsidizing a world class competitor ? I think its something we in the NBA have to consider.

If basketball players around the world truly have become equal in skill to American players, could the number of international players in the NBA be more a function of our style of play than any superiority in quality of play ?

If you look at NBA rosters and estimate that there will be about international 75 players that make team rosters, in glancing at that list, fewer than 10 are under 6’5. Which means almost all of our guards are North American, and a disproportionate number of forwards and centers are international. Which makes perfect sense. How many professional sports are better suited for tall guys than basketball ? Which sport are the tallest guys in their class in any town in the world funnelled to ? Basketball.

Which all leads to the question that Jordi touched upon. Why would international players come to the NBA instead of staying in Europe ? Couldnt the Euroleagues dominate basketball quality by just keeping their best big men over there ?

The come because of money. Pure and simple. Does anyone really think that if the pay was higher in Europe that all these players would face the culture shock of coming over here to the NBA ? Heck, even if the pay is close in Europe, because of different tax rules and the tax free perks they can get , they might stay over there. There is no salary cap. No limits of practice. The games and season are shorter, so careers can be extended. You can make a lot of arguments about advantages of playing in the Euroleague.

Right now the edge is to the NBA because of the money. Which means the NBA has risk on multiple sides. If we continue to subsidize international basketball and they grow economically, they may be able to financially support salaries comparable to ours. If we continue to help Euroleague grow their brand., Euroleague could easily supercede the NBA (if they havent already) as the dominant league outside the USA and money that the NBA hopes will be available for NBA rights will go to Euroleague . Finally, if the NBA stumbles in the USA financially at all, our ability to pay higher salaries might decline or disappear, propelling the Euroleague to a dominant position.

I personally, and I know Im not alone in the NBA with this perspective, believe we face a risk of not getting the job done here in the USA. That rather than trying to help Euroleague dreams come true, we should focus on helping NBA dreams come true. Its great that we are building basketball fans around Europe and the Rest of the World. I would rather build basketball fans in the USA. Its great that in the future someone will come from Dnepreprost or Monte Carlo and say they became an NBA player because they saw Tony Parker play an exhibition in France, or Shaun Livingston in Moscow. I would rather hear stories about kids becoming NBA fans in Louisville, Lexington, Boise, Tampa, Cincinatti, Kansas City and other non NBA cities because they went to see an exhibition game in their city.

Believe it or not the financial future of theNBA depends on 500k viewers on average for an NBA game on our cable TV partners. If we add 500k viewers on average for an ESPN or TNT regular season game, we are heroes. If we lose 500k average viewers, we are zeroes, hoping the Euroleague buys contracts of our expensive players from u
s.

I know all of this reads like a prospectus for an IPO, outlining all the potential business risks, but these are business elements that we need to take a closer look at if the NBA is going to excel as a business going forward.

46 thoughts on “The NBA vs the Rest of the World

  1. I like this train of thought here. You can call me a basketball purist, but I see the possibility of team-oriented European basketball overtaking me-first American style. So many players in the NBA seem to lack the shooting and passing ability that are central to productive team basketball. Until our game reverts back to the fundamentals on which it began, we are in danger of being upstaged by the Euros. All you have to do is look at the recent results in international competition. We can have all the athletes we want, but if they don\’t know how to shoot and pass, they might as well be sprinters or long jumpers, not basketball players. Please take a look at my blog if you are interested – nbamecca.blogspot.com

    Comment by Joe Rigdon -

  2. Emerich, the league’s basketball related income was $3.174B US last season. This number was used to calculate the salary cap according NBA CBA guru Larry Coon.

    http://members.cox.net/lmcoon/salarycap.htm#15

    As for English Soccer, they generated 1.7B Pounds in just the ’03 season.

    http://www.deloitte.com/dtt/press_release/0,1014,sid%253D1018%2526cid%253D56077,00.html

    Comment by george -

  3. Mark,

    You’re shooting an Off-balance Jump shot her..the NBA and EuroLeague’s should feed off each other’s popularity, and continue to co-market and co-brand..trust me, Kobe Bryant isn’t going to be playing in Moscow or Barcelona anytime soon, and the Mavericks don’t have to worry about losing market share to Maccabi Tel Aviv…please, Soccer will always be the dominant sport in Football-crazy Europe, but there is a niche for Basketball, and yes it is being played at a very high level in Europe…In these days of internet http://www.calsports1.com
    we should be looking at moving forward and providing more Global internet NBA content as well as providing both Americans and Europeans who live here content for EuroLeague Ball. You’re very internet savvy, Mark so you should know better than to use the Frog theory, lol….. Saul.. http://www.calsports1.com

    Comment by saul -

  4. I apologize for my English first.

    I just wanted to say that Ive the feeling Mr. Bertomeu is taking the right direction with Euroleague competition. The “Final Four” is increasing its popularity and many cities try to become the venue to host such an important event. Teams playing this competition are growing in all the aspects even in their domestic leagues and basketball is an important sport not only today but always in the past.We are proud about our history, our competitions and we suspect that Euroleague, Uleb Cup and the most important domestic leagues are becoming the perfect system to dominate the planet basketball . Its our time. Yuo will see it.

    Comment by Carlos -

  5. NBA Problems:

    1) Season/Playoffs Too Long: Each game mattes less
    2) Too Much “Me First” Attitude: The team game suffers
    3) Too Much Movement: Players jumping from team to team frustrates fans.

    Comment by Tre Pryor -

  6. I wholly support the decision to focus on the NBA product. I think the game of basketball has declined as the focus has shifted from the team to the individual; the club to the superstar. Here are the negatives as I see them:

    * Regular season is too long; games don’t mean as much. That goes for the Playoffs too; every level doesn’t need a Best of 7. The NCAA Tournament is charged with electricity because every player on the court is giving their ALL because otherwise, they could be heading home.
    * Players move from team to team too often. It’s hard to resonate with a team if 25%-40% is different from last season. Even teams moving from city to city mess with the vibe. (Not sure what can be done about this?)
    * Too much hot-dog, me-first players. The media is contributing to this phenomenon with SportsCenter highlights to a certain degree. Then these “superstars” get beat by a well-oiled machine called Greece, with no true stud player but who play the game of basketball as a team.

    Comment by Tre Pryor -

  7. Estimado seor Cuban. Dado que mi ingls no es muy bueno, se lo escribir en espaol para poder expresar todo lo que quiero de una forma correcta. Digo yo que en los Mavericks habr alguien que se lo pueda traducir. Si digo que usted es un bocazas, no voy a descubrir nada nuevo. Igual, en la NBA, ya estn acostumbrados a sus gilipolleces y bravuconadas. Y les har gracia. Pero aqu, no. Como el propio seor Bertomeu le ha recordado, sus Mavs estn donde estn gracias a seor de apellido Novitzki, nombre Dirk y que, por si no lo sabe, es alemn. Es decir, europeo. Si la Euroliga hubiera estado funcionando cuando Dirk se fue a EEUU, todo el mundo sabra quien era l y no creo que le hubiera sido fcil haberle incorporado a sus filas. Que yo sepa, los equipos NBA han jugado partido, no ya de pretemporada, sino de Liga Regular fuera de Estados Unidos. Y an no he odo a ningn japons decir que quieren meter equipos suyos en la NBA. La Euroliga (y las dems ligas nacionales) surten de jugadores a la NBA porque el jugador europeo, salvo fsicamente, est, como mnimo, al mismo nivel tcnico que los jugadores que aparecden todos los aos en el draft. Quin le iba a decir a usted que un italiano iba a ser nmero uno del draft?. Por lo que se ha visto en los ltimos campeonatos, la forma de jugar como equipo de la seleccin USA, deja mucho que desear. Ya no se dribla, ni se finta, ni se juega 2 x 2 o 3 x 3. Eche un vistazo a los equipos europeos como trabajan con la gente joven. Como les ensean a amar este deporte y a divertirse ganando y jugando al mismo tiempo. Recuerdo los primeros partidos que vi de equipos profesionales americanos (incluso universitarios) con equipos europeos, en los que al base USA no le importaba lo ms mnimo emparejarse con el pvot contrario. Ahora, no. No hay cambios defensivos y variantes ofensivas. Claro, que todo eso que ha escrito no deja de ser una opinin personal (como la ma) que habr que tener en la consideracin debida. Es decir, no hacerla ni caso. Me gustara ver que pasara si, en vez de 25 millones de euros, un equipo europeo pudiera tener de presupuesto tres o cuatro veces ms. A ver donde iban a ir los jugadores. Ande, seor Cuban, vaya preparando la chequera para hacer frente a las multas de este ao, ocpese de que su equipo nos haga vibrar de nuevo como lo hizo en la serie con los Suns y con los Heat (el resultado me da igual. Yo slo quiero ver baloncesto del bueno) y djenos en paz.
    Espero que haya ms espaoles que le dejen su recadito.
    Hala, A parla.

    Comment by Pedro Luis -

  8. Very interesting that you bring this up. Currently, for one of my classes in Law School, I am preparing a paper that touches on almost this exact subject — but for hockey. The essnetial argument I make is very similar to yours – that the NHL’s has been rather arrogant towards international markets, and these markets are going to start pushing back unless they get treated fairly.

    I am still young, but I worked in international sport for a couple of years before entering law school – through this experience, I realized how important it is to look at “interests” and not “positions”. Applied here, what is it REALLY that these fans and institutions in Europe or Asia really want? Do these fans and institutions want to see their top talent develop and then leave a few years before reaching their prime? Clearly, the answer is NO — especially when you’re dealing with sport, which is in itself institution that moulds meaning, culture, values, drives economics and politics, and is extremely effective at promoting the interests of whoever is in control.

    If anybody wants to discuss this with me further, please contact me at emulerichard [at] gmail.com — or check out my blog — http://emulehockey.blogspot.com/

    Comment by Richard -

  9. My favorite one: Dirk sits in front of camera and says proudly and clear: I do only 3 things in Germany: practice, eat mothers cooking and watch Fussball Aktuell. It is like Kobe Bryant saying that he does only 3 things in LA, practice, eats and watches NFL postgame show.

    Comment by Christian Ter -

  10. Are we going to stop at europe.

    When reading cubans comments it’s hard not to think of the UEFA champions league programme and how many countires and leagues within the continent europe all compete in the one superior competition. Initialliy this idea seems ridiculous how can leagues that are less fiscally competent such as the portugese, ukranian, Turkish and Russian teams compete in such leagues the simple answer is they can’t. However ironically the more accurate answer is not only do they compete but sometimes they win, with both Porto from portugal and Galatasaray from turkey winning the main comps in the past ten years.

    Ok thats enough about soccer. The idea of global convergance in regards to the basketball model is good, however if basketball tries a socialistic approach and tries to branch out into to many areas at the same time the stronger leagues may be kept down by let say a team called the delhi dolphins who are about as good as the guys I play ball against at the local courts.

    try to strengthen and consolidate the position of already existing markets such as europe, China, Japan and Australia.

    As an international fan I would like to say we don’t want a common world league, just for the nba to throw us a bone once in a while. Just check up on us. In Australia we lost the NBA on free-to-air tv about 10 years ago. suffice to say the ensuing result was the local league crumbled and also went to pay tv. Then the NBA was taken off pay-tv in its usual format and now only plays one game a week.

    Does this mean ball is an unpopular sport here, fuck no. Besides the spanish, german, greeks and the ex-commie bloc we still consider ourselves world rate palyers and consumers. Footlocker outsells soccer and the local football leagues by a huge ratio. Ball shoes are as popular as ever. Video game sales are huge. And we got players in your college system. But media representation died because no one monitored the situation in our country.

    Someone throw us a bone here, get nba tv onto our cable stations, just do something.

    Comment by nima khaze -

  11. There’s no doubt in my mind that Europe will be the pre-eminent basketball league eventually.

    Less competition for sports dollars, more player development, less competition for fans. I think Stern NEEDs to do this because the scorpion will otherwise kill him, given time.

    In the future, there will be an AFL/NFL type merger, and our side of the pond will be the weaker half. Maybe they’ll only meet in the championships, like MLB used to do, to cut down on travel time. Eventually it will happen.

    Comment by solomonrex -

  12. The problem isn’t that David Stern is being used as a pawn. Globalization is necessary for the NBA to continue its growth as other readers have already pointed out. I think that the biggest problem the NBA has right now Team USAs poor performances at worldwide competitions! The USA brand of basketball is suffering in the eyes of the worldwide basketball viewing populace. It only makes it worse that this is all happening at a time when the NBA is becoming more globally marketed by David Stern is conjunction with the Euro League. Who watches these worldwide competitions anyways? Not people here in the States, I can tell you that much. I would argue that there is more interest in these games amongst Europeans, many of whom these games might be their first exposure to the sport and many of whom coming to the conclusion that the United States is not so good at the game of basketball. Right now, USA has the star power to supersede all of the losses. Still, as the losses on the world stage accumulate, the NBA brand is going to be delegitimized more and more, to the point where stars in the NBA wont be seen as stars on a worldwide stage, much like stars in college basketball arent seen as stars in the NBA. Of course, this process will play itself out in the next 20 to 30 years, but the point is that 10 years ago this was unthinkable. Now, it seems inevitable.

    Comment by theMike -

  13. Mark,

    One thing I don’t think you addressed-and I think it is a large part of the international appeal of the NBA-is the cultural influence of the “hip-hop” style as personified by the biggest stars.

    I think in many ways the “influence” of the culture drives the merchandizing and while it may be a chicken and egg type of deal I do think there is still a long way for the Europeans to catch up with that aspect. And hopefully Stern’s marketing wizardry can continue to have a global reach-I think you’re a lot better off with kids in Sri Lanka preferring a Mav’s jersey to one from Greek team.

    While you corectly mention the need to extend the brand in the USA I also think the real potential will be met when cable fans in Ulan Batar are cueing up for the playoffs!

    Comment by Dick Deluxe -

  14. >Very interesting points. I never really understood your
    >argument on the NBA subsidizing international basketball,
    >footing the bill to promote it, but now I think I get it. My
    >question is will the money ever be there in Europe?

    Money (and fan support) indeed seems to be a potential problem vs. the NBA. My understanding is CSKA Moscow is currently Europe’s richest basketball club at $20 million a year. The Spanish giants such as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona (*very* famous brand names thanks to their soccer sides) have annual budgets in the $14M-18M range. That isn’t much, compared to the NBA. I think EuroLeague tickets are much less expensive than the NBA’s, yet even the big teams do not draw as many fans.

    Having said that, an “InterNational Basketball Association” division comprising perhaps 12 top European teams sounds a lot less far-fetched than, say, a comparable pro ice hockey or American Football league. There are certainly enough European and Latin American basketball players available and I think there would be more fan interest if a superleague were set up. Basketball is already clearly the second most important team sport in Latin Europe as well as Greece/Yugoslavia/Turkey. I would pick the following clubs (note: all play in major media markets and have access to major 10,000+ seat arenas):

    -CSKA Moscow (Russia)
    -Berlin (Germany)
    -PSG Racing Paris (France)
    -Milan (Italy)
    -Rome (Italy)
    -FC Barcelona (Spain)
    -Real Madrid (Spain)
    -Olympiakos Pireus (Greece)
    -Panathinaikos Athens (Greece)
    -Istanbul (Turkey)

    Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) would also be a strong candidate, if not for the political situation in the Middle East (Israeli soccer clubs often have to play their home games vs. European teams in Cyprus because of the terrorist threat in Israel). London is a real longshot, but the foreign born population there might be large enough to support a major league team…

    MARCU$

    Comment by MARCU$ -

  15. I love NBA, but now there isn’t a club or someone like chicago buls & jordan, magic superstar.

    Comment by Mas Zenk -

  16. As a businessman, the main question is what is in it for me? My guess is that by growing basketball in Europe, David Stern feels that the NBA is creating a larger talent pool to select from and that Europeans will consume NBA entertainment, merchandise, etcetera. Both of these factors rely on the assumption that the NBA will always be a superior product to the Euroleague. This is a dangerous assumption; who would have thought that the Japanese or Koreans would surpass the US in Automaking? The best solution in my opinion is that if the NBA feels strongly enough that the Euroleague could be a potential future competitor then the NBA needs to create ways to harvest revenues generated by the Euroleague. This could come in the form of a majority/minority interest in the teams/leagues. It could also come in the form of purchasing league arenas, television distribution deals, etcetera. Maybe HDNet would like to broadcast the C.B. Granada vs. Real Madrid matchup?

    Comment by ryan -

  17. Mark,
    Where I’m from you are bigger than even Doctor Z. Not J but Z.
    Don’t ever lose the passion for the game and winning. Also like listening to your ideas on business in general.
    The essense of sports and the appeal to the viewing audience is competition. As a bizness man you are right to question the NBA’s policy vis a vis international leagues. I agree with the poster who noted the lack of distribution of NBA games in overseas markets is a major weakness for the growth of the NBA. The US is only 5% of the potential audience(customer base).
    The performance in the World Championships other countries shows that the rest of the world can play and the audience is growing.
    Someday our game will out gross football (soccer) as the biggest sport because it is faster paced and has bathroom breaks built in. Whether that day will come in our lifetimes (30-50 yrs)or not depends on how well the game’s leaders of today can execute
    on the opportunities available.

    Comment by Jonathan Whitcomb -

  18. you do make a good point, but personaly it will never happen. europe has a love that cannot be shared, and that is soccer. all the love we have combined for the nba, nfl, mlb, and nhl, they have for soccer. the way the players of the euroleague (and the rest of the world) dream of coming to play in the nba, all the soccer players of the world dream of playing soccer in europe. the same way here in the states the mls will never be bigger than the nba, nfl, or mls, the euroleague will never be bigger than soccer in europe.

    Comment by dan -

  19. Mark,
    Not that I’m an economist but like any commodity, quality and availability will always dictate a product desirability. So, spectators will always weigh up the ease of accessing the highest quality product.

    So, how do large organisations maintain access to the markets they’re interested in? Advertising is one way, what the NBA is paying for in Europe now, but they are also advertising the competition, as you point out. So, the two ‘brands’ can either compete, with one or both of the brands eventually loosing audience OR the better option might be for a takeover (more likely a merger/partnership) which allows all parties to maintain similar levels of market access (i.e. REAL world league etc.).

    One other thing this might also do is allow European teams to engage in the NBA’s profit sharing mechanism (which is a great way of keeping teams afloat, BTW England/UK NEEDS this) and it also might raise the Basketball fundamentals entry level of the NBA as competition is introduced by the newer breed of European players (who learn to shoot, not just dunk, sorry).

    That’s my 2 pennies from the UK.

    Comment by Big Rich -

  20. AMERICAN SYNDROME & “I know something I won’t tell”

    Dear Mr. Cuban:

    You are suffering from a typical american syndrome, or in other words, you are seeing the world through the eyes of a true american “dude.”

    1. You believe that everything is about money.
    2. You tend to ignore european style of doing things.
    3. You tend to think that NBA finances Euroleague out of ALTRUISM rather than SELF-INTEREST.

    Let me explain this.

    1. Everything really is about the money, and YES, you don’t have to be worried that NBA will lose its dominant position in the world of global basketball. Euroleague will never make as much money as NBA – First, because it doesn’t run its operations like a franchise and second it doesn’t know how to make a marketing spectacle of things.

    2. I admire your ability to understand that everything around us can be operated like a tipycal captilistic business. However, things in Europe are not done the way they are done in America. Some principles will never be applicable to European based business simply because we have several thousands of years of tradition that are very hard to change.

    3. NBA knows very well where its money goes and why. It wouldn’t be a multi-million dollar business if it gave its money in “charity” rather than looking at the world through the eyes of its own interest and “opportunity cost.” (I believe that one of the NBA corporate executives might have even lauged after reading your column because he knows something that you don’t know, which gives him/her an incredible feeling of power – “I knows something I won’t tell!”)

    Best wishes,

    Toni J.

    Comment by Toni J. -

  21. Hey Mark,
    I’m from Bonn, Germany and I’m going to see the Suns-Sixers matchup in Cologne tonight. I understand your points. But from my point of view, the NBA is lot more fascinating to me, than the Euroleague. I have to watch the Mavs-games at 2 o’clock in the morning but I love it. We have a team her in Bonn, the Telekom Baskets, who play in the first German league. Every year they bring in a new roster with players mostly from Eastern Europe. I don’t like that and the most people over here don’t like that. Maybe American players are not the bst anymore in the wolrd, but the NBA is more than just it’s players. It is the history of the game, it’s MJ, Magic, Wilt, Isiah and many more. The NBA and the NFL are the greatest shows on earth in my opinion. So don’t worry, I don’t think the Euroleague can really compete with the NBA.
    Martin

    Comment by Martin -

  22. I think this is a precaution that Mark and his “brethren” would be wise to follow through on. There was never an afterthought that the NBA was the best league in the world. That’s changed. There’s plenty of people who feel otherwise today, in and outside of the USA. If Mr. Bertomeu is talking about his goals and one of them is to keep players from leaving Europe in the first place and not being a “second division” then he is talking about competition. (Unless of course he’s referring to the Jiri Welshes rather than the Dirk Nowitzkis). No use in being dismissive just because the footing is secure at the moment. Virtually no one expected the rest of the world to catch up with the USA on the court eight years after Barcelona but it did. No use in taking the same attitude to the boardroom.

    I’d love for the league to go global but that sounds like something way off. In the meanwhile the NBA will be in a much better position to market its own league and the game in general if it maintains its reputation of having the best league and players in the world. So please cover your butt, Mark. Or protect your downside, however you say it (and be nicer to that lad Wyc, too, please).

    Comment by Mikey -

  23. Mark,
    Hopefully you will get this comment. In regards to the book you’re reading, I think you hit a key point in the way a business is run in corporate America these days. I think it is vital that humility is found quickly, or else you will find it yourself. I love your interactive personality to be involved with an organization, rather than sitting back in your club box sipping a drink and talking about how much money you’re making off the team. It seems like you really enjoy your work and it’s something I admire and can aspire to. If you have the chance, please check out my site, it just launched, and is in the works, but will hopefully take off. Thanks!

    Comment by Danny -

  24. Two things, first, Americans hit the playgrounds earlier and more often then our friends in Europe. The more you do something the better you get, we are, and will always be better athletes because we do it more. That being said the american kids do need to be taught the basic skill set in a more organized setting at earlier ages in order to develop properly. Secondly, America(NBA) has a more motivated marketing machine then the people across the pond. I’m talking about money. If the NBA pulls in and focuses on U.S. cities as you mentioned they would be unstoppable. The best players in the world are from the U.S. we need to give the world a taste every four years in the olympics with our amatuers (college players) like we used to. The opportunity to live in america will always draw people, in any industry, to the U.S.

    Comment by jeff gilleland -

  25. This is a very, very interesting take on the Euroleague – NBA dynamic. I think I agree with just about all that you wrote.

    I know the NBA is trying to go global, and it makes sense from a business perspective. But I don’t think the Euroleague will ever be a true competitor for the US basketball fan, at least not for decades. What kid, living in Topeka, or Los Angeles, or New York would want to watch a pro team from some city in Europe? It’s not going to happen anytime soon with basketball.

    Soccer is different. For a lot of the same reasons most Americans don’t care about what happens in the Japanese baseball league: it’s in Japan. There are teams here. Good teams here, with players we know, and have watched for years.

    US basketball it going to be the prime place to play for years. Partly because of the money as you said, and partly because Europe has other sports that are much more popular.

    Comment by basketball tips -

  26. I agree with your comments about the euro league, The NBA does appear to be spending money helping a potential rival, while as you say there not an immediate threat they soon could be. Have you seen the Euro commissioners response to your comments he doesn’t seem too happy ;). I’m from Australia and our NBL (national basketball league) has just added a team in Singapore to go with one that is based in New Zealand that has been in the league for 2 years. IF the Singapore team is a success I can see it having the potential to blow up into a South East Asian Bball league which would be really exciting. I guess my point is I’d love the NBA to come to Australia and spend money promoting the game here and helping us out. But sadly in a few years if we are big enough to get the attention of the NBA then I fear your comments will be proved to be true and they will be less willing to help other leagues. Also to go with Anthony Perri’s comments maybe we can have a Asian conference to go with the Euro one in a global comp one day. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi

    Comment by Andrew Barnard -

  27. Mark,
    Interesting comments as always – but for the first time, I saw you behave like some of the dinosaurs in Hollywood…..why should the NBA remain the “National” Basketball association, why should it not become the “Global” basketball association? – the ideas you suggest all reek of protectionism – pro basketball has a huge and growing population in China and India – and within your fav target segment – the kids and tweens and teens…they grow with basketball and remain fans – so if the NBA someday grew to be like FIFA – well why not – as the owner of a fantastic team, you should be thinking of the whole world as your audience not just dallas or texas or the US….the euroleague is not competition and will not be for the next several millenia – on the other hand, if used properly (by people like you) could effectively spread the good word about basketball to a HUGE audience overseas….I thin it is a great way to hedge your bets against the NFL, NHL, Nascar and MLB here in the U.S……

    Comment by Anand Narayanan -

  28. actually, the NBA’s revenue last year was 3.75 billion USD compared to the EPL revenue of 2.44 billion USD, so the NBA still has english soccer’s number.

    Comment by M. Emrich -

  29. LA Kid is right. The NBA is a monopoly. If you want to increase it’s exposure, add more teams in underserved cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas etc… The EPL generates more revenue in a country of 50M than the NBA does in all of the United States. Maybe tickets would become affordable and real rivalries could be built instead of the league spewing this outplayed Kobe-Shaq garbage every season. Maybe then you’ll get your ratings.

    The first NA league to stop breaking anti-trust rules will blow the rest out of the water.

    Comment by george -

  30. NBA should remain superior, if players give up arrogance when it comes to play with others.

    Comment by Magree -

  31. dang son – you should stick to bball – looks like you actually have something to say about it that’s not complete nonsense – unlike your youtube hatin.

    Comment by Peter -

  32. I love Mark, but sometimes you are an idiot.
    If you think that Euroleague is your competitor shame on you, because now basketball as a sport has to make a choice. Do we protect out small pond full of fish called NBA or we share these fish with other ponds and grow grow grow!!!!!! Because you said it yourself If we lose 500k average viewers, we are zeroes. As I can see right now NBA is sitting between 2 humongous forces that both share the same name: football. At home in the U.S. American football represented proudly by NFL and college football kicks ass big time and I dont see them slowing down and worldwide just football, more commonly known in U.S. as soccer kicked ass long time ago and has such domination in so many different sick ways, that it is just scary. Btw I spent this summer in Germany and I saw a lot of different ads with your truly Dirk. My favorite one: Dirk sits in front of camera and says proudly and clear: I do only 3 things in Germany: practice, eat mothers cooking and watch Fussball Aktuell. It is like Kobe Bryant saying that he does only 3 things in LA, practice, eats and watches NFL postgame show. (Fussball Aktuell is crazy soccer show, that runs every day and that even mighty NFL will be proud off. Basically they invite top people in German soccer from National coaches to club owners and have ridiculous discussions that sound like presidential debate. Some of topics are: Why did I play right footed defender last week at left back position and how it affected overall performance of my team) If Mark will sit and whine that we have to protect our market, increase barriers to entry, protect our product and all other monopolistic bullshit. He will find himself with same ratings as NHL or Arena Football 2 years ago. I see only one way for basketball. Unite, help each other to make money Euroleague plus any other league, Disband the players union. Yes Mark it is hard to believe, but in 10 years the World Championship will not played between winners of Western and Eastern Conferences, but between NBA Champ and Euroleague Champ. Also 10 years from now NBA might be just one of many leagues, but every sport executives most often then not looses the sight of one most important axiom. Protect the game and grow the game. Just finally to give an example of how low NBA is right now, consider case study of FC Barcelona. This one football club has 200k members and membership is not like supermarket membership. One has to pay from 50 euros and up depending on what football club decides to spent on the transfer market in a given season. I dont see anytime soon someone paying 70 bucks just to be a member of Dallas Mavericks. Also I dont see 200k doing it. So Mark stop whining and just think how Mavericks can become a global brand, so next time when Stern e-mails you informing that he would like your team to play a couple games next preseason in Europe. I hope you say: Only two?? Screw you David, I want at least six.

    Comment by Tim A. (LA kid) -

  33. hi…FanJam was the best!! tha teams awesome…GL this year!!

    Comment by *Bballntara* -

  34. Mark- It’s time for you to think about your next investment opportunity; Jordi Bertomeu’s thoughts are exactly my argument in reverse for the MSL. Why does Manchester United’s worth dwarf that of the NY Yankees? How would your Mavericks payroll compare to say, Real Madrid? It’s the ability to reach the global market.If the US developed the top soccer league in the world, something a few Malcolm Glazers could do, the advertising revenues would dwarf the NFL. Second opportuinity: become the new Jack Kent Cooke by putting a NFL team in LA and retaining your Mavericks.

    Comment by Patrick Butler -

  35. An interesting viewpoint Mark. But really, are you saying the NBA is not benefitting from making basketball a global game? The fact of the matter is American sports in general dont tend to have any following outside of the US thats worth talking about and the NBA is begining to change that. If and its certainly a big if you can ever have basketball become a truly global sport you will see a lot more money coming into the game.

    In todays world you cant raise the shutters and say hey we arent paying to develop basketball in other countries cause someday they might be better than us. Because if you do that no one out side of America is going to care about basketball. Today when people talk of watching basketball its the NBA they want to see. Promoting basketball around the world increases visability for the NBA. You talk about the euroleague overtaking the NBA but there is no real evidence to suggest this is likely anytime soon. To pretend the NBA would not react and improve if their domination was challenged is absurd.

    Desmond – A champions league for basketball ? you are having a laugh mate. there is no way it gets any following to speak of immediatly because the average viewer of basketball isnt exactly jumping at the chance of watching CSK Moscow play the Heat or Mavs. The logistical challenges would be considerable too. It works in soccer because the teams arent too far off and fans actually travel to opponent games. besides soccer is bigger than the NBA is in America in any of the countries where the champions league is avidly followed.
    One big difference is that teams have a real history there. In America there seems to be a real concentration on either the individual or the league with most teams not really being promoted in the same way. I see dirk is ads and I see ads for the NBA but I dont see the Maverick brand being advertised or making real efforts to build a world of following. And the Mavs are one of the leaders in challenging how things are done. Exceptions like the Yankees, Sox, Packers, Niners exist.

    Comment by Mihir Bhatia -

  36. I am a Dallas native who lived there off and on for 25 years and now live in London. I believe your “prospectus” is off the mark. We are in a global economy and your “let’s just worry about our own turf” is going to put the NBA in a worse situation in the long term. I think one of the big problems is that NBA coverage is not accessible enough in other countries. Example: in order for me to watch the Mavs in the Finals last season I had to download some dodgy Chinese streaming app and watch the game on my laptop from a feed in China. Did I mention all the commentary was in Chinese. How difficult would it be for the NBA website to stream live coverage? Come on Mark… isn’t that why you started Audionet???

    Is it that difficult in other countries besides England to watch NBA games? I know there is an audience for it. I was in Istanbul last week and on some nights a particular TV station was airing old NBA playoff games. One night I watched the Western Conf Finals from 1998. This is in Turkey!!! You can’t tell me there is not a global audience for NBA basketball. When I am in the States I can turn on Fox Soccer Channel and watch games all day from the best leagues in the world. Is it as easy to do that for the NBA in other countries? It should be.

    Yes football, excuse me, soccer is the dominant sport worldwide but I believe that basketball is the one sport that can compete with it. Here’s why… basketball, like soccer has simple equipment and can be played most anywhere (i.e. pickup games). American football, cricket, baseball, hockey, rugby all need lots of equipment, large fields or special conditions to play. Second, basketball like soccer (outside the US) is a popular inner-city or working-class sport mostly due to reason one. Most of the world-class soccer players grew up in poor, inner-city environments. Same as with many of the NBA basketball players. Third, basketball is associated with urban, hip-hop culture which makes it very appealing to teenagers and young adults. American hip-hop culture is extremely popular throughout the rest of the world. Teenagers see music videos of there favorite American rap artists wearing NBA jerseys. They want to wear them too.

    When you say that the NBA is wasting money on overseas marketing, my response is that maybe you should rethink your overseas marketing strategies. I believe if you stick to just focusing on the US market you are missing out on a golden opportunity.

    Comment by Brant -

  37. The best brazilian soccer players all play in Europe.
    Why ?
    Money 1st
    Better structure 2nd
    As long as the main targets of NBA-related marketing are in the US and players are also paid for this, it’ll be hard to attract talent from the NBA.
    If you consider that the NBA promotes the stars more than the teams, and people pay to see and emulate the stars, than the league is still getting the best deal – today.
    But if the people in the US who pay to watch and consume basketball do not care about rooting for home teams and start caring about competitive basketball and teamplay – then Stern’s model fails.
    In my point of view, the US market is – still – much more relevant so the NBA won’t change things much.

    Comment by Marcos Carreira -

  38. I love to read your blog because it makes me think. It always amazes me that people read their own thoughts into what you write. If I understand the piece,the Euroleague is more than willing to continue taking your (NBA) money to build THEIR brand, not yours. Those who claim soccer is king (which it may be right now) should ask themselves how many countries was Euroleague seen in five years ago? You can bet it wasn’t the current 120. The Euroleague brand is growing and some day in the future it will flex it’s muscles and tell sugar daddy to stay home. The NBA is not immune from suffering the same fate as the NHL. There may come a time when the $20 million salaries go the way of the Edsel. Things tend to be cyclical in this country and if I was in the NBA I would worry about my image at home and how to build a fan base that will stay loyal through the tough times that are sure to come some day.

    Comment by Michael Genette -

  39. Don’t know what you’re trying to prove, it is obvious the soccer is much more popular than basketball, didn’t say the opposit.
    But there is still a possibility rising the popularity of basketball much more than it’s nowadays. Probably not higher than soccer, but we could try to narrow the gap :)

    I now the situation in the present and also Bertomeu does, but I don’t see whats wrong in trying to rise the popularity of basketball, and actually he’s quite succeeding in the lastfew years.

    Comment by Nathan Alpern (From Israel) -

  40. I travel to Europe frequently, and I just don’t see it happening. The only team sport the masses care about is soccer. The sports channels are dominated by soccer and individual sports that you would find in the Olympics.

    Comment by fast eddie -

  41. Hey Mark, hope you read the comments (especialy this one)

    Anyway

    I think you’ve got a lot of things wrong in your post.

    First of all I think you’re wrong about your opinion about Bertomeu and his “Schemes”
    I think his main goal is not competing the NBA but making the Basketball more popular across Europe and the world and being on the same level of popularity as soccer, handball and other types of sports. Thus making the teams earn more money of TV contrucrts and rights and maby even making rich man to invest in the basketball across Europe.
    And I must say that he does quite a good job in the past few year, Tickets to Euroleague games are being sold out in Spain, Israel, Greece and Italy, The number of spectators in games is rising every year and the recent success of European teams and Euroleague players on the international level has added to the popularity of basketball. After Spain, where soccer is the most popular sport event, had won the basketball world championship, it was reported in the front pages of the newspapers there.

    However, it is still not that popular in Europe so there’s still much work to do, and by organizing his international tournaments and even wining NBA teams like Barcelona did against the Sixers and CSKA against the Clippers can only rise the popularity.

    In my opinion in order to really compete the NBA and the rediculasely high salaries (Honestly, I don’t see any logical explanation for players like Brian Scalabrine to make 2 millions a year), the Euroleague needs billionairs like yourself and other NBA owners.
    DOn’t know if what exactly the busget of your team or the average budget of other NBA teams but it’s much higher than in Europe.
    The “Richest” basketball players in Europe make approximatly 2,000,000 dollars a year, and top teams’ budget in Europe is mostly between 10 to max of 20 million dollars, Kobe Bryant himself makes more money.
    Therefore, I don’t see players like LeBron and Kobe move to play in europe anytime soon.

    And it brings me to my next point.
    Even though it does happen, and those billionairs come, and the Euroleague will threaten the hegemony of the NBA I don’t see anything bad in that, actually I think of the opposit.

    I think the during past decade the basketball in the states has been corrupted. Suddenly the only thing that intrests the players is money.
    Both players, fans and even coaches have forgotten the true essence of basketball which is team work and effort.
    I see people across the net argue that the basketball in the NBA is the best because it has the best talents.
    I think it’s undoubtful that the NBA has the gratest talents, but only talents don’t make a good team, but also coaches and a lot of team effort and hard work.
    Therefore I truely hope that the main purpose of Stern is not only making the NBA more popular, but also make the Americans and the NBA players understand the way basketball played in the NBA is wrong. And start practicing on playing together and be better team players and coaches, because the coaches in Europe are much better, and the way the game played in Europe is much closer to it’s true meaning. I hope it will teach you americans to be less arrogant and ignorent. I think that announcing the NBA champion as a WORLD champion is a good example. And thats why I think Stern is doing a great job and I hope it makes the fans enjoy a better basketball.

    Don’t agree with your saying about making the basketball more popular in the States, I think it’s populistic because the basketball is already very popular in the states (and the reason European players want to go there is not only the money but the DREAM, not everything is money), in Europe however it’s not that popular, and making it global can make the teams get more money, thats my opinion. I think as a capitalist you should think the same.

    That’s why I don’t think thare’s anything wrong with what Stern and Beromeu do, and I really hope they succeed with their doing.

    That’s probably it, I’d be quite surprised if you’ve got this far, and hope to read your opinion here, or by mail.

    Yours Nathan.

    P.S
    Hope you win the NBA championship next year, you really deserve it :)

    Comment by Nathan Alpern (From Israel) -

  42. Mark, money is the last reason international players want to play in NBA. They go for the competition, for the fame, for the magic. NBA is a magic world, the Mecca of basketball, not only in the four lines of the field, but all the atmosphere.
    The problem is not Euroleague.In reverse, Euroleague maybe will wake the NBA and help it to recognise its position.
    The problem is the NBA itself. NBA is in danger to lose the magic, to lose the brand that players like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan had built.NBA must search and find the solution why this is happening.
    If NBA can’t sustain the magic, then it is fair to rank it as Euroleague or another international championship.

    Comment by kostas -

  43. Very interesting points. I never really understood your argument on the NBA subsidizing international basketball, footing the bill to promote it, but now I think I get it. My question is will the money ever be there in Europe? I thought I read somewhere that basketball is the 7th most popular sport in Germany? There was a story on the local news during the playoffs about three guys who get together to watch the Mavericks games at 4 in the morning. I just wonder how far away they are from truly competing for the best players….

    Comment by Tim -

  44. I don’t always agree with you (actually, most of the time I don’t) but I think you’re hitting a cord on this one. A decade ago, I was working for Landmark Communications. When the web started to boom, I asked our leadership why we weren’t keeping up. It was really frustrating to me that we weren’t. Their answer? Let everyone else spend their money and then we’ll buy in when things settle down. It was a brilliant move, they didn’t lose a dime when the bust came.

    Though they are still slow at adopting the web, newspapers are starting to reap the benefits of it.

    Comment by Doug Karr -

  45. I completely agree with you regarding the rise of the Euroleague.

    This is a serious business threat to the NBA and the NBA does not even realize.

    I came back from a trip to Italy last year where I took time out to watch a Euroleague game in Milan. Barcelona against Milan. or FC Winterthur against Armani Jeans. Whatever the teams are called.

    Point being, I later told my friend Coach Donewald (who coached in the NBA for 4 seasons with Paul Silas) that I thought Euroleague was a better brand of basketball than the NBA. He completely agreed.

    The best business move now for the NBA is to establish a worldwide Champions League, as they have in Europe for the top club teams. It is “the” league championship to win in Europe, and its brand of soccer is the best in the world. Many soccer mad folks like myself enjoy it more than the World Cup, because the teamwork is better.

    A Champions League of basketball would head off Euroleague’s moves to prominence in the world. It would make the Dallas Mavericks a global brand as well, much like Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona.

    Financially-speaking, it would be a windfall for the clubs such as yours. These would be big ticket events, not to mention the worldwide television/online audiences.

    It has to be done this way. It is just a better idea than the NBA. The world has changed. The NBA needs to change. In the connected, global world of 2006, the NBA is a bad idea compared to an international, Champions League-styled event. Its a better idea for the NBA brand, the Dallas Mavericks brand and the various other brands that are tied in with basketball (Nike, Spalding, etc.)

    As we saw today, CSKA dominated the Clippers. The playing field is almost level, if not level. Now the teams need to play each other.

    As a basketball nut, I want to see CSKA Moscow play the Miami Heat. I would pay more money to see the Dallas Mavericks play the Maccabi Tel Aviv than I would to see the Mavs play against the Atlanta Hawks or any other bottom feeder in the NBA.

    So there you have it.

    Comment by Desmond -

  46. I agree with 90% of what you say…but players will leave their country to play against the best, that is the hallmark of a true competitor….why not buy the Euro league and have an NBA Europe, and initially it can function as a type of minor league but someday become the European Conference…then the Finals will be a true World Championship.

    Comment by Anthony Perri -

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