Ian Thomsen from SI.com, who already announced the NBA Europe project as first one on the Internet, met with our friend Jordi during the All-Star game last weekend. He asked him what his opinion is about the possible expansion of the big league to Europe.
All in all, Bertomeu came up with 4 points that are probably giving some problems to implement a NBA division in Europe.
- Profitmaking with a basketball team
- Basketball is not mainstream in Europe
- Different laws in every country
- Ticket prices
All these arguments are valid but one thing has to be cleared stated. In my opinion, a NBA Europe division attracts a whole different type of people than the Euroleague. Just looking around me, I saw the huge impact that had the NBA Europe Live Tour among basketball fans. I say basketball fans and not Euroleague fans.
Lots of fans even considered traveling to Rome or to Cologne to watch NBA preseason games at NBA Ticket prices. My guess is that all those people I know that went for these games have not seen any Euroleague game in their life. Most of them don’t even know that the Euroleague exists by the way. I speak here of course for somebody that does not live in a Euroleague city or in a Euroleague country.
Coming back to Bertomeu’s points. Those may be correct in a Euroleague vision. The franchises that would be created are of course in order to make money; that’s the main point of the whole NBA concept. And as Bertomeu says correctly, most of the Euroleague teams are not built to earn money but they are the result of a long tradition of "giving back" something to the people.
The second argument about basketball not being mainstream is again true for the Euroleague view. How many kids have Benetton Treviso posters in their bedroom in Finland? or in Berlin? probably close to zero. It may be true that the whole Euroleague lives from the rivalry between the big clubs. But the kids prefer stars like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. There is not much doubt that the majority of basketball followers prefer to watch the Berlin Wallers playing the Lakers or the Cavs than seeing ALBA Berlin playing Khimki Moscow.
The law problems that Bertomeu is taking into account are clearly a problem where even the Euroleague view does not change anything. But as already previously remarked, David Stern is a lawyer, and when he wants this to happen, they will find a way how to deal with it. At least, with Canada in the NBA, there are already different conditions that are part of the NBA.
The ticket price discussion is in my opinion not the biggest problem. By implementing the franchises only in the big business centers, a lot more VIP and Business packages can be sold than the actual Euroleague can ever dream of in my opinion. Because these high priced entertainment tickets are brining huge money to the franchises.
So to sum up, we see that Bertomeu is not really raving about seeing NBA teams come to Europe. But as he correctly says: Anybody who is trying to promote basketball — no matter which is the way — helps basketball.