Photo: Flickr/Keith Allison
In soccer, we’ve grown quite used to the best South Americans playing in the English Premier League, or in La Liga.But say there is a lockout, and NBA players do choose to play their trade overseas. Will they simply follow the money, or will they let other factors guide them?
For instance, here’s a simple one, via Scout.com: Dirk Nowitzki has told the German paper BILD that “Rather than do nothing at all for a year, I would come to Germany [to play].” BILD goes on to get even more specific about possible destinations for the Big German:
According to the article, those choices centre around three teams with ties to Dirk: Bamburg (which is near Dirk’s hometown of Wurzburg), Alba Berlin (which has the biggest arena, best tradition, and whose coach is a close friend of Dirk), and Bayern (which has two players who are close to Dirk, and whose coach is the coach of the German national team).
Spain, Greece and Italy have the best pro leagues; France is in the mix, and Russia has robber barons willing to shell out nearly unlimited money in ways that their buddy Mikhail Prokhorov just can’t in America. That gives the locked-out pro plenty of options, even if the unifying theme there is the Mediterranean. Kobe has for a long time promised to play in Italy when his NBA career is over, perhaps out of nostalgia for his childhood there. Dirk would opt for a lesser league in his home country.
For your average American superstar, would it just come down to cash? Do all of them necessarily need (or want) to play? If they choose to go overseas, it will tell us a lot about either their love of the game, or their need for a continuous flow of cash coming in.
Where they go may also clue us into some of their priorities. It’s not too hard to imagine LeBron James in Russia—not just because of his expensive lifestyle, but because he probably thinks he can learn a thing or two from the mega-tycoons that control that country.
[Ed. note: It’s not clear that Dirk, or any player who isn’t a free agent, could go to Europe in the event of a lockout, as they would need clearance from FIBA to switch leagues, although there is an argument to be made on both sides.]
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