It’s an all-important week for British hoops.
by Ben Taylor / @benitaylor
My first two weeks as a Sixer fan? Pretty good.
I got an official welcome from the team on Twitter (at which point I discovered that they have a slightly weird rabbit mascot thing…I’m not sure about that guy).
I have to say a big thanks to the amazing team at Mitchell & Ness for their special welcome to the Sixers family—I arrived at the office one morning to find a parcel on my desk, full of M&N gear. I am now the best dressed Sixer fan in the whole of the UK (although to be honest, I have yet to find another Sixer fan in the UK…).
I guess the only thing missing is an end to the lockout. I’m not a big NFL guy, but seeing their season get saved, and the insane week of trades that followed got me pretty jealous.
In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with Ryan’s solution, Chinese exhibitions, and Eurobasket.
It’s a pretty big week in the world of British ball. After what seems like half the NBA has declared they are intrigued by playing overseas, over the pond, we have been sweating over the possibility that Team GB’s main man, Luol Deng, and debutant Ben Gordon may not be allowed to play outside the US this summer.
As you may have read, it is basically all down to an insurance issue that could cost Europe’s teams their NBA stars this summer.
No insurance means no players, and covering Big Lu’s $71 million deal with the Bulls doesn’t come cheap.
British Basketball needed to find a rumored $1.6 million to insure Deng and Gordon, which is a hell of a lot of cash to find for an organization running a sport that makes no money here, who have minimal sponsorship revenue, and not much in the way of funding.
To quickly put it in context, here’s what a selection of sports get every four years from the UK government to run the national teams, help get kids doing exercise, and for marketing:
Football: $140 million (soccer, not your version)
Rugby: $100 million (split across two versions of rugby…because rugby isn’t confusing enough as it is)
Cricket: $65 million (like baseball, but at the same time, nothing really like baseball)
Tennis: $40 million (we stink at tennis)
Basketball: $13 million
The good news for us is that in the last few hours, Deng tweeted that he’d been given the green light to play. One down, one to go.
Despite the big cost, for the sake of the future of basketball in the UK, and for the sanity of fans like me, British Basketball absolutely had to find the money from somewhere.
We’re on the edge of something. Or maybe it’s a tipping point. The tipping point I’m referring to is the 2012 Olympic Games.
For the first time, my cricket loving countrymen (and most importantly, their kids) will get to experience the greatest sport in the world at it’s highest level, on their doorstep. The best players in the world playing in this country, just a couple of miles from where I’m sat typing right now. They’ll also get to see a gutsy British team, led by a humble, hard working NBA star. We won’t win gold, but we’ll sure give it a go.
That’s how it all starts. The Dream Team got me hooked. It got a lot of other people hooked too (probably some of you guys), and pretty soon we saw the true impact that Michael and Charles and Magic and the guys had. Everyone got the bug. Kids around the world started trying to be like Mike. Spain, Argentina, France, Germany, China, Australia and the rest all started producing NBA stars. They launched their own leagues, which thrived and expanded, meaning many of them are currently trying to sign up the NBA’s finest for a summer overseas.
Call me optimistic, but that could be us. In five years time I could be sat in a SLAM London office, doing a feature about a British kid who just got snapped up in the first round of the Draft by London’s new NBA franchise (owned by David Beckham…you heard it here first), and it will have all come down to this week, when a bunch of British guys and an insurance salesman shook hands on a deal to let Luol Deng and Ben Gordon play this summer.