The NBA is the center of the basketball universe. It has the greatest players and the greatest teams. But there are other leagues and other players throughout the world.
FIBA is the Federation of International Basketball Association. It is the governing body of international basketball. It establishes the rules, scheduling, and location for all World Championships and governs 73 international teams. International basketball can be divided into six regions, Europe, North America, Latin America, Oceanic, Asia and Africa. Each of these regions boasts its own leagues and championships.
The strongest international basketball league is the Euroleague. There are other basketball leagues in Europe such as Eurocup, Adraitic League, VTB, and League. The Euroleague is considered the European equivalent of the NBA. It consists of 24 teams, with playoffs and a championship. The best players in Europe play in this league and the NBA heavily scouts it.
There are currently there are 94 International players, from 36 countries in the NBA, with the majority of them coming from the Euroleague. There is at least one International player on every roster. Some of the NBA’s biggest stars come form outside the United States.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Danilo Gallinari, Yao Ming, Andrew Bogut, Al Horford, Tony Parker and Dirk Nowitski. This trend should continue and there will be more foreign-born players in the NBA.
More and more top colleges are recruiting internationally as the search for the next Michael, Kobe or Lebron. The Euroleague is becoming more competitive as young boys in Europe as choosing basketball instead of soccer.
The League is made up of twenty-four teams that basically represent different counties in Europe as well as larger countries having more than one team.
AJ Milano form Italy, Asseco Prokom form Poland, Asvel Villeurbanne from France, BC Khimki from Rusia, Caja Laboral from Spain, Cibona form Croatia, CSKA Moscow from Russia, Efes Pilsen from Turkey, Entente Orleanaise from France, EWE Baskets Oldenburg from Germany, Fenerbahce Ulker from Turkey, Lietuvos Rytas from Lithuania, Lottomatica Roma from Italy, Maccabi Electra from Israel, Maroussi BC from Greece, Montepaschi Siena from Italy, Olympiacos from Greece, Panathinaikos from Greece, Partizan Belgrade from Serbia, Real Madrid from Spain, Regal FC Barcelona from Spain, Unicaja from Spain, Union Olimpija from Slovenia and Zalgiris from Lithuania.
Just like its cousin, the NBA, players are moving from team to team and players from that region may dominate a team from a particular region but there are always players from other regions, such as a Lithuanian player on AJ Milan out of Italy.
Along with the Euroleague there are twenty-four domestic leagues throughout the continent. Whereas the Euroleague is regionally international the domestic leagues are not. The domestic leagues can be considered the minor leagues of European Basketball. Another aspect of international basketball that goes under the radar is the influx of American players in the European leagues.
There has always been an American presence in Europe but it was players in the twilight of their careers, who are trying to play a couple more years or second tier college players that go undrafted in the NBA. They will play in Europe hoping to improve their skills and get noticed an NBA scout.
There are close to 60 American players on Euroleague rosters. One of the most startling deals was Josh Childress accepting and signing, an unprecedented 3 year $20 million contract with Euroleague club Olympiacos Piraeus, in 2008.
The contract was equal to a 3 year $32.5 million NBA contract. The contract included opt-out options after each of the first two seasons. Childress also received a Greek Nike contract after signing.
He was offered a 5-year $33 million deal by the Atlanta Hawks, where he was the 6th overall selection, but he turned it down because it was significantly less money than Olympiacos offered him. If Europe continues to be an option for the elite basketball player and the Euroteams begin equaling and offering the same compensation more and more American will choose to play overseas.
Many NBA players are beginning to see the possibilities of playing in Europe, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade have all said they would play in Europe if the offer were big enough. They are already international superstars, have played internationally so the jump would not be out of the question, somewhere down the road.