European basketball must emerge united and demand fair share for producing NBA stars

2020-05-31T18:26:46+00:00 2020-05-31T18:56:18+00:00.

Aris Barkas

31/May/20 18:26

With the aftershock of the cancelation of the season almost all over Europe still not felt, there’s a need for the European basketball business model and its relationship with the NBA to change

By Aris Barkas/

With the notable exceptions of Spain, Germany, and Israel, the post-season in Europe arrived abruptly and, in most cases, provided more questions than answers.

While most teams can’t be sure of their damages from the 2019-20 season and their budgets for the 2020-21 season, the first indication is profoundly concerning.

Νobody can guarantee the presence of fans in the stands; nobody knows if the sponsors will have enough money to spend on advertising, and even television deals may end up being renegotiated.

The numbers for the EuroLeague are expected to be precise by July and will be officially presented on the annual general assembly of the clubs.

In the domestic leagues, while in most cases, there are talks about expansions by necessity, because there will be no relegations, it’s entirely unclear how many clubs will be sustainable after the pandemic.

In this environment, FIBA is actively trying to boost the Basketball Champions League and has already succeeded in adding clubs with brands that will improve the status of the competition.

However, it makes more than sense to finally map a pathway for the long debate between FIBA and the EuroLeague and change the structure of the European competitions.

Europe currently has four continental competitions – the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, the Basketball Champions League, the 7DAYS EuroCup, and let’s not forget the FIBA Europe Cup – and realistically speaking, two might be more than enough.

With two continental competitions and the collaboration between FIBA and EuroLeague, the revenues are bound to be maximized, and companies that are trying to invest in sports on the pan-European level will get a reliable alternative to football.

EuroLeague CEO Jordi Bertomeu addressed the issue in his recent press conference, and he stated: “Clearly we never agreed, and we will never agree, with the concept that Europe can have four club competitions. I don’t think someone can believe that this is realistic, feasible, and right. But sometimes from problems, we can take opportunities. And probably this could be one scenario”.

His quotes on the matter flew under the radar. Still, Bertomeu also revealed that there are ongoing talks with FIBA on this matter: “So we started some, let’s say, conversations in the last month with FIBA as a consequence of the pandemic. Both sides have been more focused on our internal problems. Before this happened, we had already had some conversations, and I think that the atmosphere with FIBA is different – and probably not only for the pandemic but also as a consequence of the pandemic – to speed up the process of the conversation. It doesn’t mean that we will manage to have less European competitions – we’ll see – but I cannot deny that we have a new reality. Everybody has to make an effort to adapt to the reality of our sport, our competition and above all our economy, to the new situation. But we’ll see. It depends on the evolution of these conversations, but we are open, as always, to have conversations about this.”

With the numbers pushing towards this direction, it makes more than sense for the two sides to find some common ground finally. And that can be the start for something bigger.

Europe and the NBA

The elephant in the room is the relationship between European basketball and the NBA. While the US-based league had grown by leaps and bounds since then 90s, European basketball is lagging.

On the court, you can argue that the gap is not as big as it used to be in the previous century, but in everything else, there’s simply no competition. And the sad truth for the old continent is that the NBA is moving forward with stellar speed, while Europe makes baby steps for the last 20 years.

The question on the mind of European basketball officials should be how Europe can benefit from the NBA financially because European stars are not a rarity at this point on the States, but an established brand.

Last year the MVP was Greek (Giannis Antetokounmpo), the defensive player of the year French (Rudy Gobert) and the rookie of the year Slovenian (Luka Doncic).

Except for Doncic’s buy out – which is estimated to be around $2M, a sum more than low for a phenomenon which has already emerged as an All-Star – European basketball has not benefitted at all from producing those stars. On the contrary, European national teams can have those players available only on significant FIBA tournaments under certain conditions.

That’s why a six-million buy out for Facundo Campazzo should not be an exception, but the rule. European basketball desperately needs a financial boost, and it’s only fair to get it for producing elite NBA players.

And for that to be achieved, you need to have FIBA and the big clubs working together towards that goal.

Even if there’s no deal between the EuroLeague and FIBA about the number of continental competitions, finding a way to renegotiate the buyouts, especially for players drafted from Europe, is a must.

Just consider that currently, European clubs can get less than one million for letting a player go to the NBA, according to the current collective bargaining agreement, and the total salary cap of an NBA franchise is more than 100 million US dollars.

If that equation becomes fairer, then it would make more than sense for every European basketball club to invest money in the sport.