European basketball: Zero hour

2017-09-26T22:13:57+00:00 2017-09-27T12:55:24+00:00.

Aris Barkas

26/Sep/17 22:13

With EuroLeague and FIBA agreeing on disagreeing, the point remains that European basketball is in danger of taking a huge step back.

By Aris Barkas/

One year ago, when Eurohoops analyzed the war between FIBA and EuroLeague the World Cup qualifiers windows were described as the possible “key to the end of the conflict”. It now seems that they can be the nail in the coffin for the present state of European basketball.

This is not an exaggeration. EuroLeague denied the counter-proposal made by FIBA which also denied the new calendar proposal made by EuroLeague. While FIBA made the latest proposal and that was at least a sign that they want to communicate with the other side, at this point no one seems really ready to give up on anything in order to find a compromise.

For the sake of the conversation let’s agree that on the matter of the national teams, FIBA is interested in the growth of the sport. It’s true that the national team home games will undoubtedly help the sport, especially in the parts of the world where there are no NBA and EuroLeague players. And having the big picture in mind, FIBA’s conflict with the EuroLeague is just collateral damage. However, when talking about Europe, the angle changes dramatically.

Clash of resources

It’s not a secret that EuroLeague clubs are just trying to break even. So just when their revenues are rising, FIBA’s plans are creating a roadblock in their season and they don’t get anything in exchange. According to FIBA, basketball can’t be held hostage by 16 EuroLeague clubs, no matter how important they are. Still, FIBA was ready to work together with those clubs, to be exact with eight of them, in order to create the initial version of the Champions League. Ιt’s easy to understand why there’s no trust between the two sides.

And while FIBA’s decision to free one summer every four years for the players is more than welcomed by them, the fact that they would have to cut short their rest and recovery time for the national teams is an issue. Under the new proposal, FIBA is asking from players to compete in four games during seven days with only one day of rest before joining their national team. In some cases that even translates to six games during ten days without the traveling perks of the NBA players who may have a similar schedule.

On the other hand, neither EuroLeague’s proposal was ideal for FIBA’s vision. National teams qualifying games in July is not the best way to get attendance and interest. However, it might have been the only way in order to have the NBA players on the rosters. And that brings us to the big issue.

The elephant in the room

FIBA has repeated many times that EuroLeague is not the NBA and they should not ask for the same treatment. And it’s correct that the EuroLeague as an organization is lightyears behind the NBA, especially in revenues. However, the NBA and even the NCAA are the main contenders of the EuroLeague for European talent. The French basketball federation – not a club – raised the issue recently in the letters send to FIBA.

And it’s countries like France, Slovenia, Serbia, Spain, Russia, Croatia, Germany, Latvia, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Lithuania, Israel, Finland and more that will miss their stars and key players in the qualification games, even if the EuroLeague players are present. FIBA’s argument is that anyway most NBA players wouldn’t bother to play in qualifying games. But what if they did? Dragic did it last year for Slovenia and we know how things ended up.

In the words of Pau Gasol, when he was asked if he would play again for the Spanish national team, “there are these qualifying games of FIBA in which the best players of the teams can’t play, so that’s interesting and pretty controversial“.

That’s the point of the national teams, to have the best rewarded for their excellence. That’s the point for the fans, to have the chance to cheer for their best and see them live, something most of them can’t do because the biggest stars of their country are playing in the NBA.

EuroLeague should not ask the same treatment with the NBA. It’s FIBA that should ask the NBA to have their players available for the national teams and if that happened, then EuroLeague would not have any alternative. For the moment, FIBA is happy to have the NBA players possibly present only in the major tournaments and EuroLeague has an argument of double standards.

EuroLeague has one more ace in this debate. In case the clubs and their players are punished according to national laws for not playing in their national teams, those punishments will only apply to their national league games and not in the EuroLeague. Practically any kind of punishment will not affect directly the EuroLeague games.

Ultimately the message given to top European players is simple: If you want to get out of this mess – even if you are not responsible for it – then try to get a contract in the NBA or announce your retirement from your national team. And if they do get to the NBA, the fans of their country will follow them…

While in theory, the FIBA qualifying windows are a great idea with a lot of potential, especially in countries with no strong leagues and clubs, in their current state they create more issues than those they solve in Europe.  

Both sides probably understand that the situation is more than crucial. It remains to be seen if logic and compromise will prevail in the end.