Welcome to the ‘WBA’! The inevitable move to a global basketball league

The NBA is not what it once was. From the rivalry of Magic Johnson against Larry Bird in the Lakers against the Celtics, from the globalizing explosion of Michael Jordan with his Chicago Bulls-, from the epicenter of US domination over the world with the Dream Team, we have moved on to a basketball that is no longer Nobody’s property.

The best league in the world stopped being national to become global. David Stern, dear friends, was right.

ESPN’s latest player ranking ruled that four of the top five players in the league are international. Namely: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jockic, Luka Doncić, Joel Embid and recently, closing the quintet of celebrities, Stephen Curry.

Not only has the style of play changed from traditional positions to multi-function players. From a low post with a triangular offense to the pure dynamics of rhythm, with shots from the logo, incessant vertigo and speed of execution over planning and strategy. With the advancement of social networks, with the videos that spread like a contagious virus across all platforms, basketball ceased to belong to the United States and became the property of the world.

“We didn’t want to take pictures of the players. We wanted to face them and if possible beat them,” said Manu Ginóbili, inducted into the Hall of Fame on September 10, at the press conference held at the Mohegan Sun in Uncansville, Connecticut.

Talent is everywhere and the brand’s policy of extreme diffusion, which deepened in the mid-’90s, left this issue in evidence. The NBA has suffered a cultural invasion that caused a mutation in its own entrails.

“Manu was the engine of an extraordinary team that caused a profound teaching to our basketball. We learned with them and they learned from us,” said Jerry Colangelo at the closing of the Class of 2022 conferences.

Yes, ten years after Barcelona 1992, a team made up of NBA players lost for the first time at the hands of Argentina. The shock was deep and cracked much more than the dream built by Chuck Daly. Not only were they human, but the rest of the world learned. He could compete, the physicists were different, the game was more and more balanced year after year.

Although they were previously Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Patrick Ewing (Jamaica), and Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands), among other nationalized international talents, were Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Yao Ming (China), Steve Nash (Canada), Pau Gasol (Spain) and Ginobili, some of those who made up the “Glue Generation” between the net American basketball that it used to be and what we see today.

“We think basketball is an international language. It’s a sport that was invented in America, but it’s traveled the world. It’s been Olympic since 1936 and we’ve worked in a lot of different countries,” Stern once said.

Pre-season games have been played in London, in Paris, in Mexico. In Tokyo too. The expansion of the franchises to Canada, with the Toronto Raptors being champion in 2019, is just the beginning of a path that seems inevitable: destroy once and for all the geographical limits of a country and, why not, of a continent. Use the skeleton key to open the paths to the world. Is it crazy to think of the birth of a WBA (World Basketball Association) instead of an NBA (National Basketball Association)? I think there is not much left.

The actions of basketball without borders opportunities and experiences greatly expanded. The EuroBasket that ended on September 18, which had Sergio Scariolo’s Spain as the unquestionable winner of the tournament against an intimidating France in the definition, showed that many of the best players in the League are in the selections of the old continent. It is curious, but it is difficult to find today in the NBA, for example, a super elite American center -90% of the giant-stars are foreigners- in the same league in which they knew how to destroy records bill russell, Wilt Chamberlin, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal, to name just one notable poker player.

The phenomenon, far from being limited, is about to deepen. Draft classes are littered with elite foreigners in first-round spots, and what was once exceptional is now the rule. There is no NBA analyst who does not know that except for some unforeseen event, Frenchman Victor Wembanyama, 2.20 meters tall and with gazelle movements, will be the number one pick in the Class of 2023.

Years ago not only would they not have considered it: we would not even have seen it. Much more so, it would not even have been worked on to be what it is today. The physical, emotional, sporting and psychological education of upcoming sports figures is just a click away. You don’t even have to be in the same place to learn: what used to be secret has now been democratized as a result of an open source culture that benefits the community and the sport itself, regardless of language, gender or race.

The world is constantly changing, but what was once ventured as a possibility is today an unobjectionable reality. Distances have been shortened, communication has been unified, and what used to belong to a few now belongs to everyone.

Does anyone think that the United States will be the only candidate to win the 2023 World Cup in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia? And the 2024 Paris Olympics?

Two decades ago, Argentina rocked the world with a shocking victory in Indianapolis. However, today everything is different. What before could be a surprise, is now a concrete possibility. The best league in the world has ceased to be national to become, definitively, global.

James Naismith invented it, David Stern massified it, and Adam Silver enjoyed it. The internationalization of basketball is already a fact.

The future, then, is already with us.

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Welcome to the ‘WBA’! The inevitable move to a global basketball league