This past Saturday, I decided to watch the EuroBasket tournament semi-finals and finals instead of NCAA football. It was exciting basketball played at a high quality. Spain is simply an incredible team, featuring the Gasol brothers and four other current NBA players (and a few former ones too). They ended up defeating Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Nicolas Batum, and the rest of France in the title game. That’s a lot of talent. It proves that the the rest of the world is catching up to US.
EuroBasket occurred as the NBA is entrenched in the midst of a lockout. The NBA is in need of new ideas to promote the stability and growth of their league. Previously, I wrote a lengthy dissertation on overhauling the entire professional basketball structure, but admittedly, many of those ideas wouldn’t fly in NBA Commissioner David Stern’s world. However, I have recently come up with an idea that would breathe new life into the league, yet is insanely practical, and would actually work.
The idea is simple: shorten the NBA regular season to 58 games and in the month preceding the start of the NBA regular season play an international tournament (for now I’ll lamely call it the World Basketball Cup) that includes all of the current NBA teams, the teams that form the Euroleague, some Chinese teams, and invite some wildcard teams from places like South America, Africa, and Australia, among others.
Why we Need this Tournament
Here are a few reasons we would want this tournament:
- The NBA regular season would be shortened. Shorter seasons are better for everyone. Less supply, more demand. Less wear on players, etc (if you need more reasons, read this post about saving the NHL). That’s a home and road against the other teams in the league. This is the type of proposal that ends lockouts!
- It’s another trophy. People like watching competitions with trophies on the line. This would legitimize the “World Champion” claim of NBA teams. Yet it wouldn’t take away from the prestige of the NBA playoffs. If you are unconvinced, the EPL championship remains prestigious, even with the UEFA Champions League being more prestigious.
- It serves as a major kick-off event for the NBA season, and would get people talking about the NBA before Lakers play the Heat on Christmas Day.
- It increases the global NBA brand. This is simpler than Stern’s dreams of NBA teams based in European cities. American sports leagues need to realize they need to incorporate existing European clubs and their fanbases into the fold instead of starting new teams. My fear is that an NBA team in Madrid would be started from scratch and called the Madrid Machine (this happened when the NFL failed in their invasion of Europe). All this when the NBA could of just helped Real Madrid get up NBA standards. This tournament would encourage existing international clubs to reach these standards.
- One of the biggest complaints about the NBA is that the players don’t play as a team. However, European teams do. This would be a refreshing change to see pro basketball played in the team framework, and would attract the fan who may only watch March Madness.
- The underdog factor: Think about the hysteria that will occur when European powerhouse CSKA Moscow beats the Knicks to reach the semi-finals. I want to see this! That would get press.
Here is the format. 64 teams will take part in this tournament beginning the first week of October and lasting four weeks. It will end two weeks before the new start of the NBA season in mid-November.
The tournament will begin in pool play with eight groups of eight teams. That’s seven guaranteed games for every team. Each group will have three or four NBA teams and four or five non-NBA teams. The top four teams in each group will advance to a single elimination tournament consisting of 32 teams seeded by how each team placed in each group. The champion and runner-up would end up playing 12 games total.
Here is a list of the leagues and teams that will be invited to participate:
- All 30 NBA teams
- All 24 Euroleague teams. Note, the Euroleague changes some teams each season, so it be based on who makes up the league that year.
- If your keeping track, that’s 54 teams. This leaves 10 wildcard spots. Here’s how I’d add them: <ul style="border: none; margin-bottom: 0; padding-bottom: 0;">
- 4 CBA teams (that’s the Chinese Basketball Association). If the NBA didn’t include at least this many Chinese teams they’d be crazy. China is mad about basketball.
- 3 spots reserved for other non-North American, Chinese, and European teams. They can either be hand selected or have a playoff to determine these spots.
- ABA Champion. The NBA should embrace the ABA as a developmental league by rewarding the champion with a spot in this tournament.
- The previous years NCAA Champion. Why not? All of us have had the following thought: Could the best NCAA team beat the worst NBA team? Let’s find out. Seven games is essentially half of the non-conference games an NCAA team plays in a year. Golf allows pros and amateurs to play against each other. I’ll say it again, why not?
- Stern's Pick: There is one spot for one team of David Stern's choosing. He would appreciate the gesture, I'm sure.
The biggest issue would be who hosts the tournament. My suggestion is to create a four year cycle between the US, Europe, US, and China. Where the games are held in each country or continent would be up to the host league, but revenues should be split between the teams participating and based on how far a team progresses.
Spread the Word: Send a Message to Stern
In conclusion, this tournament needs to happen. I know in past I’ve posted reforms for all kinds of sports, but this is the most feasible and reasonable of any of my suggestions. So please spread the word until it reaches David Stern’s desk. I appreciate your support and as always the comments section is open.
Special Note: Please join me in the Mind of Maus boycott of the unreasonably long length of the NHL season. Sports reformers united!