The Euroleague Final Four is the culmination of the season but by the off day is just that for, a full off day. Emmet Ryan argues that taking a couple of ideas from the NBA All Star weekend could benefit Euroleague and fans.
Last Monday I was in London, home to the 2013 Final Four, for my day job but I was fortunate enough to run into Rob Scott of Euroleague Adventures for lunch. I took two things out of our chat, London is really expensive and the Final Four seems to end a touch too abruptly.
To take things back a moment. Let’s look at two good ideas that work which, if copied entirely by Euroleague, would be terrible but if the right bits were taken could be of huge benefit to all stakeholders.
The Copa del Rey, as an event, is extremely good at what it does and it benefits greatly from format. It has that extra round to make it that little bit longer and cram the schedule just enough to keep everybody satisfied with their feast of basketball.
Replicating that with Euroleague would be insane and altogether stupid. An elite eight in one city would not only devalue the games beforehand too much, it would sap the energy of players and fans alike. Making use of the day however is another story entirely.
That brings us to the NBA All-Star weekend. Fan culture in Europe has shown that while a conventional Euroleague All-Star game or weekend would go over about as well as the third-place game currently does, some of the elements could be incorporated into the off-day.
So here’s what I propose, we take the crammed nature of the Copa del Rey and blend it with All-Star weekend.
Friday remains semi-final night, Sunday remains final day, Saturday becomes a festival.
The order of this has been going over and back in my head but I’m thinking of TV priorities here with the order.
We kick things off in the late-afternoon or early evening with a Rising Stars game. There are so many formats this could take, most of which are fine but lean a little on the dull side (looking at you geographic divides and Euro vs Rest of the World splits) but fundamentally pick the best players in their first two seasons of Euroleague not on Final Four teams with an emphasis on youth (shouldn’t be too hard) but not completely ignoring the possibility of an equivalent to Pero Antic getting a selection in last year’s NBA equivalent. Alternatively set an age bar. Either way, put together a pool of 24 of the top up and coming talents in Euroleague and divide them into a pair of rosters.
My preference here would be to have a Euroleague legend nominated as de facto GM of each side and have them draft. It adds a bit of spice to the occasion, the draft could be done over YouTube or via Twitter, and also gives a showcase event for the top young talent in the competition. We’re going to assume that being on a Final Four team is enough of a showcase for the eligible players on those sides. Either way you could have Team Sabonis vs Team Djordjevic on the floor on the off night.
In terms of storylines there’s so much to work with. You’ve got agents fighting to get their guys into the spotlight or some looking to keep a player from being exposed. I can already see our buddies in Sportando and Eurohoops salivating at the prospect of covering that beforehand, plus it makes Final Four weekend even more of a marketplace than it already is. It also gives fans of teams eliminated earlier in the season more of a reason to pay attention to the weekend as a whole because they know their young gun is going to hit the floor.
Once the kids are finished doing their thing, we go straight and simple. The best dunkers in Euroleague, again from outside of Final Four teams, strut their stuff in primetime. Euroleague is already trying to get a taste of this with its #NoJumpNoGlory dunk contest based on dunks within the season. They can even incorporate it into the process, the two* dunkers voted into the final of that online competition make it to the Saturday night primetime display to go up against a selection of three or four other dunkers picked by experts (we can argue over the selection committee later but for now let’s just stick Sam ‘Hoopsfix‘ Neter in a room and have him explain to people what makes fans lose their minds). You stick a mix of Euroleague legends courtside as judges and boom simple primetime entertainment for hoops fans.
*Admittedly if a dunker is on a Final Four team, he misses out, but hey we can find some back up plan to get a fan voted player in. If fans are willing to vote en masse for cheerleaders, they will vote for dunkers.
In terms of filling the barn, you either include it as part of the Final Four package or bus a bunch of schoolkids in or some combination of both. The important part is to not charge extra for it. You’re giving TV partners easy content to fill airtime and it’s the type of event where the brand benefit is enough but the extra sponsorship brought in will probably cover the expense in any event.
The media, and yes that most definitely includes this site, would lap it up. It gives them more stories to cover on Final Four weekend and more content to share with readers/viewers/listeners. True, it delays the start of my drinking on Final Four Saturday and that is a loss but I assure you, based on last year’s Final Four Friday and Sunday, it won’t lessen it.
It’s not perfect but it’s a heck of a starting point and there’s too much upside not to at least test the waters. It involves a bit of love from domestic calendars, although having games in leagues then send teams to Euroleague on the same weekend as the Final Four is probably an issue that needs addressing in its own right. Soccer doesn’t do it, in fact soccer has rules that bar friendlies from clashing with its equivalent of the Eurocup final. They know to protect those nights.
The final night is about the winners but the whole weekend is where Euroleague as a whole gets to shine. It’s where the brand, where the whole Devotion thing, gets out front and centre. Leaving Saturday empty, lets down what we can do with this weekend. We’re not the NBA, we’re something different, and we love that but it doesn’t mean we can’t take a couple of their ideas and make them our own.
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