Apologies from BallinEurope for not weighing in on this … thing until this morning, but after rereading it for the nth time, BiE felt the rant building but wanted to avoid posting an overly emotional response. Perhaps a day and a good night’s rest would temper my viewpoint; maybe upon waking this morning, we’d all discover after logging in to FIBA.com that the Eurobasket manipulation had all been a smokescreen for the hiring of Mike D’Antoni. Or something.
US Presidential Election 2012: America’s basketball diplomat hits hardwood for last-minute votes (plus Official Fearless Prediction™)
Love him or hate him after nearly four years in office, one thing is for certain: Barack Obama is the first basketball president – a fact that could curry lots of favor with Generation X and Y voters in a celebrity-charged election.
Sure, Bill Clinton was lucky enough to enjoy his home-state University of Arkansas’ 1994 victory in the NCAA Tournament and play host to the Dream Team in ’92. Sure, guys like George W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon were often more erudite when discussing sports than, you know, politics (check out “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72” for Hunter S. Thompson’s interview with Tricky Dick, an interview which Thompson was told could only be about NFL football). And the Kennedys surely won popularity points for their picturesque family touch-football games.
However, no US president has leveraged sports fandom on an international scale like Obama. (Check out BallinEurope contributing writer Enrico Cellini’s piece on his pet project, tracking Obama’s basketball diplomacy moves.) And the president’s preference for basketball represents the rise of the NBA and to some extent NCAA hopes during David Stern’s reign as the big league’s commissioner.
(Is it any coincidence that Obama came to professional prominence in that hometown of the 1990s’ Incredibulls? BiE thinks not.)
On this, the eve of Euroleague basketball 2012-13 edition, David Hein and BallinEurope (unleash) present a serious gabfest on all things Euroleague (and some NBA) with two of our favorite hoops scribes. It’s two hours of solid basketball talk, a.k.a. episode four in the “Taking the Charge” podcast series, which Hein took to calling “The Euroleague Bonanza” early. Show segments – really, this thing is so long, segmentation is necessary – are:
• A chat with UK-based John Hobbs of Talk Basket – Having attended several media events in Germany as well as the actual Alba Berlin-Dallas Mavericks NBA Europe Live tour game itself, John joined David Hein and myself to talk about Dirkamania, marketing the NBA (particular in that tricky British market) and the actually quite substantive >David Stern ‘n’ Jordi Bertomeu press conference of last week. Plus, fearless predictions from the Basket Talker … sort of.
So apparently this is what BallinEurope does when
dithering about Official Fearless Predictions™ for Euroleague waiting around to record podcasts: Watches video of league management types.
On the other hand, this isn’t just any commissioner we’re talking about today – This is El Jefe himself, arguably the most influential figure in international basketball for a couple decades, David Stern.
Stern met with press alongside Euroleague CEO Jordi Bertomeu – the two looking a bit like an American presidential ticket – before what BiE is calling the Dirk Bowl matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and Alba Berlin. Naturally, Stern covered lotsa topics focusing on European hoops and the future of the big league. Should you not wish to watch the entire 25-minute powwow, BiE breaks down the highlights below, in diary format a la Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons.
0.00: With Stern and Bertomeu sitting in front of the traditional logo-laden wallpaper background, a thought comes to mind. Oddly enough, the listed cosponsor of the NBA Europe Live Tour is the Basketball Veterans Association. Was this some sort of bizarre consequence of the NBA player lockout?
NBA Europe Live, Euroleague American Tour: Bo knows highlights; Celtics regroup against Milano; Stern travels; video clips
The past three days saw five cross-continental club games play out in Europe and the US in the 2012 Euroleague American and NBA Europe Live tours. And, hey, it’s Monday, so let’s just roll the highlight clips!
• Naturally, the biggest news was all about the lone upset among the games: Fenerbahçe Ülker’s 97-91 toppling of the Boston Celtics in Turkey. Bo McCalebb added to his already-heavy personal highlight film with several sweet plays and incredible speed. (Seriously, is he getting faster?) Directly below, he bamboozles Pierce (“Damn, he’s quick,” The Truth was surely thinking), blows past Rajon Rondo and finds Oguz Savas for an easy two after getting Brandon Bass to leave his feet…
1. The 2011-12 Euroleague season:
a) was one of the greatest ever
b) was the greatest ever
c) proved Jordi Bertomeu’s contention that “we don’t need NBA imports to be a top-quality competition”
d) was awesome, but man, i’m jonesing. When does the season start?
Spartak St. Petersburg 82, Triumph Lubertsy 73: Epic display of flopping, personal vendetta or match-fixing conspiracy?
Criticizing the referees is the international pastime for fans of every sport as losses are bemoaned and shortcomings blamed on those unloved (and allegedly) myopic zebras. Nothing new here.
Cynicism and conspiracy theorizing are particularly rife in this part of formerly Soviet-influenced Europe, with anything up to and including Eurobasket losses. Again, nothing new here.
A PBL match of last Wednesday saw playoff-contending Spartak St. Petersburg lose at Triumph Lyubertsy, 82-73, in a crucial match involving a few other clubs. This immediately spawned at least one nicely edited clip of referee miscues from the game which may have cost Spartak the much-needed win. One more time, join in if you know it: Nothing new here.
Meanwhile, over in Hollywoodland … to no cineaste’s surprise, the silent film The Artist was named “Best Motion Picture of the Year” at the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony. While Tinseltown may have had a decent, if not mind-blowing, twelve months of production in 2011 – as evidenced by Woody Allen taking the “Best Original Screenplay” award for Midnight in Paris with his perhaps 24th- or 25th-best ever script – the year in basketball movies was disappointing to say the least.
In hindsight, no real possibility existed for the 2011 crop of hoops flicks to match the previous year’s output in terms of either quantity or quality, what with ESPN in the midst of its “30 for 30” documentary series. Eight basketball documentaries (nine if you include June 17, 1994) mostly well worth watching – spearheaded by the most excellent Once Brothers – were released in ’10 alongside the barely-seen Saints of Mt. Christopher. Plus, BallinEurope got to crack jokes at Common’s expense while enjoying fave Queen Latifah thanks to the essentially NBA-sponsored Hollywood flick Just Wright – who remembers that one?
And, of course, the artistic achievement of the 2009 tour de force, Who Shot Mamba? by former Yahoo Sports blogger/general comic genius at large has yet to be matched by any human endeavor, so one can’t fault the international film community for not approaching this one.
But come on! By BiE’s count, there were four major basketball film productions crafted in the year 2011. A pair of European documentaries saw no release outside their native countries (more on these below), while the compelling-sounding “Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story” is apparently still seeking a distributor. How is this possible? Just check out the official synopsis from producer/director Franklin Martin:
Hosting dignitaries and politicos from Italy this week, U.S. president/basketball devotee Barack Obama recently gave an interview to the visiting media as well, naturally taking time to praise Italia’s representatives in the NBA. As self-proclaimed scholar of basketball diplomacy – perhaps the only one on the planet – Enrico Cellini has noticed that Obama’s effusive acclaim for Danilo Gallinari and Marco Belinelli is in fact quite similar to the prez’s gushy quotes on Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur back in 2009…
In a rare interview between an American president and an Italian newspaper, Barack Obama went through a wide variety of topics ranging from the state of the current Euro Crisis, through the turmoil in Syria to the importance of Italian-Americans in US society: “Italy can be proud that its sons and daughters continue to make invaluable contributions to the success of the United States and to our bilateral partnership”.
Of course, Obama didn’t miss the chance to deploy his trademark basketball diplomacy and dropped the following grand finale for the interview: “Of course, I have to add that guys like Danillo Gallinari and Marco Belinelli bring some pretty good game to the NBA, too.”
So 2011 may have been few people’s favorite year personally, European basketball fans have certainly got to be taking solace in the fact that the past 12 months featured a seriously great run of Continental-flavored hoops.
To wit, in 2011, we enjoyed:
• an exciting round of Euroleague playoffs which included FC Barcelona’s surprising tournament-round exit and culminated in storied franchise Panathinaikos bagging its third EL trophy in five years;
• in domestic leagues, another weird Bundesliga playoff tournament, another controversial Greek tourney, and from Italy and Spain second-place shockers Bennet Cantù and Bizkaia Bilbao Basket advancing;
• lots of European superstars battling it out in the NBA playoffs, particularly on the Western Conference side, with Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and of course Dirk Nowitzki proving so key to their teams’ successes (or lack thereof);
• the Eurobasket 2011 tournament hosted in the world’s basketball-maddest country which ultimately inspired Team Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic to opine that “this has been the strongest European Championship in history…” (and, judging only from the star content alone, BiE would probably agree, despite a general loathing for such hyperbole directly after an event);
• some awesome schadenfreude-laced moments as NBA refugees came to play on the Continent during the player lockout, plus all the incredibly amusing speculation on names beginning with Kobe Bryant; and finally
• the close to the 2011-12 Euroleague regular season with a week 10 that featured some crazy dogfights for entry and positioning in the Top 16 round, including a great do-or-die game between Emporio Armani Milano and Partizan Belgrade.
Olympic Games or no, how can basketball year 2011 be topped? On the first day of the new year, BallinEurope takes a last brief look back at the most popular stories we ran in 2011. Relive one killer 365 days of European roundball once more below.