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NBA heading for Britain ?

NBA boss David Stern has raised the spectre of Britain hosting minor league basketball for its trans-Atlantic parent. What are the odds of it working ?

NBA boss David Stern was in Milan to catch the action at the McDonald’s Championship, basketball’s biennial world club tournament. But he wasn’t just there to act as the highest paid cheerleader of America’s representatives San Antonio Spurs. The Commissioner was preaching the NBA gospel and with it, his vision for the sport in the 21st century. A model which now includes the extraordinary idea of a NBA-run feeder league based within Europe itself.

“We might be the first league that decides to have a minor league in one season and move it lock, stock and barrel to a different continent for another,” revealed Stern at the recent owners meeting in Vancouver. 

“In some cases there may be entire leagues which seek affiliation. And in some cases where there might be some proposals that the NBA operates an entire league. We see nothing but opportunity and the market place is talking,” he added, naming Birmingham and Sheffield as two potential venues.

The concept obviously holds a certain parallel with the activities of the rival NFL whose own World / Europe League was initially established in 1991. But while gridiron continues to struggle to put down indigenous roots, basketball has long been established in its own right on this continent. 

Naturally the suggestion that the big brother across the Atlantic might waltz in and trample upon the existing infrastructure has not been met with universal applause. German and Italian authorities were immediately dismissive of the scheme though our own BBL gave the idea a cautious welcome.

And by the time Stern arrived in Milan, his tone was much more conciliatory. Less of a league and more of a globetrotting series of matches was the outline plan. And it would done in complete co-operation with, rather than independently from, basketball’s global governing body FIBA.

“We have received a number of statements of intent from broadcasters and consumer product companies inquiring about whether the NBA would be interested in spreading its name and game to a broader audience than the United States. But we have no specific programme,” he insisted.

But with an argument already raging over how the number of Americans imports in Britain is limiting the opportunities for homegrown talent to break through, would a new entity which exists purely to provide support to the NBA be good for the sport ?

FIBA chief Boris Stankovic affirmed that there would be no question of the NBA making a hostile entry overseas.

“The NBA is a member of FIBA and I can’t imagine that even the NBA would violate the rules. We now have two big basketball organisations in the world. Both have to work together.”

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