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In Europe, the NBA attracts attention and great players

Paris (AFP) – The NBA is becoming more and more international and is promoting itself all over the planet by relocating games, such as the one that will be played this Thursday in Paris and that will face Detroit and Chicago, to the point that the most dominant players in the American professional basketball league come from Foreign.

Since the 2018-2019 season, the trophy for the best player in the regular season has been shared between two European players: the Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Serbian Nikola Jokic, with two trophies each.

Before them, the only representative of European basketball that had been recognized with such an award was the German Dirk Nowitzki, in 2007, which shows a trend in recent years.

“You can see the extent to which basketball is expanding, the internationalization of the game and, above all, these players are taking the game to an extremely high level,” BJ Armstrong, former point guard for the Bulls, told AFP on Wednesday. Chicago and triple NBA champion alongside Michael Jordan.

Another proof of this is that in the middle of the current season, among the five best scorers in the best league in the world, four are foreigners.

back in 2024

Matches relocated abroad, with a forecast for another meeting in Paris in 2024, broadcasting of games and ‘highlights’ (best moments) almost live through social networks… The NBA’s strategy to expand its influence in the abroad has strengthened in recent decades.

For Detroit center Ben Wallace in the 2000s, it’s all part of “TV!”

“The Europeans realize that they are beginning to see how their players make it to the NBA and that gives confidence to the next ones, who say to themselves ‘I’m going to be the next European to land in the NBA,'” added the one who was chosen four times. best defender of the championship.

“Our games are broadcast all over the world and today with the internet, social networks and our ‘League Pass NBA’ (streaming platform), it is available to everyone,” says Neal Meyer, head of the NBA at Europe and the Middle East.

If stars like Tony Parker, Nowitzki or Pau Gasol paved the way at the beginning of this century, “it all started in 1992, at the Olympic Games” in Barcelona, ​​when the United States presented the so-called ‘Dream Team’, with all the great stars of the NBA of the time, recalls BJ Armstrong.

“Although the Americans, with ‘Magic’ Johnson and company, came and dominated, being able to rub shoulders with these players, to face them, is what originated what we are seeing now,” reaffirms the former Bulls player.

An enthusiasm that took advantage of the former NBA commissioner David Stern (1984-2014), the first great artisan of the development of the NBA brand abroad.

“There is nothing better than organizing games in a (economic) market, we see it in Paris, not only because of the lucky fans who will be in the stands, but also to see the players in the city, with important media coverage around the meeting,” said Adam Silver, current patron of the NBA.

Nuggets player Nikola Jokic shoots to the basket under pressure from Jock Landale (left) and Damion Lee, from the Phoenix Suns, in an NBA game played on January 11, 2023 in Denver (Colorado, USA). © Matthew Stockman / Getty Images North America/AFP

Doncic in Madrid?

“25 years ago, the teams did not want to travel (…) For the coaches it was a distraction, an interference in the regular season. Now it is very different, especially since 25% of the players in the league are born outside of United States. Our best players are European!” added the commissioner, who assured that the NBA “probably will return to Paris next year” because the French market is one of the most important.

“Not counting the United States, it’s the country that contributes the most players to the NBA,” said Mark Tatum, deputy commissioner.

The NBA leaders also indicated that Madrid could soon be the scene of a Dallas Mavericks game, a team in which the Slovenian Luka Doncic, trained at Real Madrid, shines.

For Mickaël Pietrus, a French forward who played in the NBA between 2003 and 2013, “the NBA had no other option” than to open up to foreign players, especially French ones. “Our formation made players like Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Ronny Turiaf and myself, known worldwide.”

For his compatriot Joakim Noah, a Bulls player from 2007 to 2016), “this trend is going to accelerate” in the coming years as the African Basketball League consolidates, of which he is one of its promoters and which he foresees train players from that continent so that they end up playing in the NBA.

Will all of this pose a threat to America’s dominance of basketball?

“This will increase the level of play, it will motivate the players to improve, it’s a nice challenge for the Americans,” said Neal Meyer.

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