Monday, April 23, 2007

The Glorious Guest Post: The Globalization of Basketball, in One Series

Hello, friends. My name is Ted, and I frequently write here, although I can also be found in other places.

A few weeks ago, I made contact with the good people at I Dislike Your Favorite Team, who told me I could write - on a trial basis, since everything I do is pretty shoddy anyway. I've been meaning to actually contribute something to them for a while, and I would use the excuse of "being busy," although let's be honest - it's 12:55pm on a Monday (EST), I've been at work for three hours, and I've done approximately one thing of relevance. I think "lazy" might be a better term than "busy" for my inactivity.

So, here goes, er, nothing (hopefully not in the literal sense). I watched my first full NBA game - i.e. all four quarters - in weeks last night, in the form of Nuggets vs. Spurs, Game 1. I had some thoughts, not the least of which is that I love Kevin Harlan, and I needed a place to write 'em down. So, here we go now:

David Stern frequently talks about the globalization of the NBA; in one humorous interview, in fact, a reporter used "the treatment Oklahoma City gave the league" as an example, to which Stern barked, "How is THAT globalization?" Regardless, it seems to be a significant issue for one of the sharper minds in sports management.

The globalization of the NBA has taken various forms over the past few years: the development of Yao Ming from an All-Star-votes-sucking-sideshow to a legitimate MVP candidate (prior to his injury); the diversity of a Suns roster, as guided by a coach who no one outside of Italy had any clue about a half-decade ago, that has helped them to become one of the NBA's centerpiece franchises of the past four years; the sheer fact that other nations clubbing us over the head like baby seals in international competitions are frequently using rosters comprised mostly of NBA players; and, of course, the San Antonio Spurs.

2/3 of the Spurs "Big Three" - and it seems almost every team these days has a "Big Three," even if you have to loop Shane Battier into it for Houston - are foreign. In fact, 3/3 of it are: Duncan is from the Virgin Islands, but he's been doing his shake and bake in TX for so long, you come to think of him as some guy named Cliff, wearing a 10-gallon hat and dropping a lot of "Goshes" over getting tickets to the Rodeo the same night as Martina McBride's performance. Alright, maybe not - but the fact is, the Spurs always have an internationally diverse roster (RC Buford must have a crapload of frequent flyer miles), and they always have a legitimate shot to win it all.

This series they're currently embroiled in, versus the Nuggets, is interesting along those lines. Last night, for example, Beno Udrih - a Slovenian who kind of looks like he's using the same stylist as the Bobcats' Walter Hermann - was often guarding Linas Kleiza, a Lithuanian three-point specialist who has a vague physical resemblance to a beefier Macaulay Culkin circa 1990. The Udrih - Kleiza defensive battle - all floppy hair and mis-timed shots, elbows and knees flying every which way - might come to define the series as other battles (Bowen vs. Anthony/Iverson, etc) essentially cancel each other out.

If it's not Udrih vs. Kleiza, it might be Tim Duncan vs. NeNe (Hilario, although he doesn't seem to want his last name used by anyone). NeNe is Brazilian, which means he should be good at soccer, just like Duncan should be good at swimming. I guess weird things happen on the road to 40 Games in 40 Nights. NeNe's got a gimpy knee, which means Marcus Camby, the most underrated player in the NBA right now (dude finished first in BPG and fifth in RPG, yet gets no love) might start picking up Duncan. Camby's from Hartford, which isn't foreign but might as well be (I live there - I should know). The point is, after all these parentheticals, another key battle in this series - the entire Western Conference, for chrissakes, because if the Spurs lose first round, the world is reset on its axis - is defined by two non-American bred players going head to head in the post.

Top of the key on occasion in this one? The human flop festival, Manu Ginobili, an Argentinian of great distinction who has managed to never get killed for something he did on a playing surface, is periodically picked up by Eduardo Najera, the third Mexican-born player to ever lace 'em up for Stern's Association. Najera, who might be one of the most relevant people that Kelvin Sampson ever begot unto the professional ranks, is a stingier defender than people give him credit for, but Ginobili - a sixth man only in spirit (and stat sheet) - is an offensive force when he wants to be.

The next time Stern wants to wax poetic about the globalization of the game, he should sit courtside at Pepsi or AT&T Centers. You can talk all you want about Yao Ming vs. Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur, but the other key battle in that series features T-Mac (of Bartow, Florida!) vs. Deron Williams (of Parkersburg, West Virginia!). Blabber until you're blue in the face of Dirk, but he's being made to look like a biatch against the Warriors by guys like Monta Elliss (of Mississippi!) and Al Harrington (of New Jersey!).

No, no - to really see the influence that basketball has on our planet, the almost gravity-sucking (that's for you, Kevin Harlan) pull of international talent to the NBA, take a gander at Spurs vs. Nuggets. Virgin Islands vs. Brazil, Lithuiana vs. the former USSR, Mexico vs. Argentina. These battles should be reserved for every fourth year on international soccer pitches, but nay, friend: we're getting 'em right now, for the next week and a half, as Carmelo (from Baltimore! OK, bad example...) tries to get that monkey off his back. He's gonna need a passport, a translator dictionary, and a Fodor's to do it, apparently.

Or, you know, if you're not into international effect on the game, just look at Udrih's hair. It's pretty cool. I know Eva's having second thoughts...


Zach Landres-Schnur said...

watching an entire basketball game (warriors/mavs), while a good game, makes me not want to watch an entire nba game for another few weeks.

Badcock said...

In Japan, the toilet seats are electrically warmed and contain a built-in warm water bidet system.

Really quite delightful.