While we wait around to see if the NBA actually has a season this fall, something is happening in the world of basketball and it's that this is truly becoming a "world of basketball." This is cool and we should be proud to see other cultures continuing to embrace what was once a uniquely American sport. This is a good thing and not being a xenophobe, I'm fine with it.
But after taking in a few games of Eurobasket (the surprisingly efficient name for the European basketball championships), I've realized something. Those Europeans are slowly, but convincingly, turning basketball into soccer, or something very much like soccer. I'm also convinced that they're trying to bring this to the NBA or maybe if there is no NBA for a year or more, completely take over the sport. Let me lay out some evidence.
1. First of all, European basketball used to be more cute than impressive. You remember, right? The trapezoidal key, the embarrassingly close three-point line, the net that appeared to be made out of leftover rope from a neighboring goat farm, the bearded white guys who all seemed to be doing their best Magic Johnson impressions...Now, European basketball squads are peppered with not just NBA players, but some all-star-caliber guys like France's Tony Parker and Spain's Pau Gasol. We have to take these guys seriously because, like soccer's biggest names, they are super, super famous.
2. The style of play is a faked shin injury away from being nearly identical to that of soccer. While the Bob Knight's of American basketball professed a regimented series of passes and back-to-the-basket post moves, the Europeans play with more fluidity and frankly, a bit more sexiness. They look more relaxed. More confident. More like, well, Europeans.
3. Rudy Fernandez, the Spanish darling who's a hero in his native country, but was merely a role player for the Blazers (and now, likely, the Mavericks), wears his first name on the back of his jersey. Who does he think he is? Pele? Ronaldo? Morrissey?
4. Not all countries have the sort of citizen requirements we do, meaning that American-born players like Joakim Noah (and the beaver den that he calls a hairdo) can become French citizens because of familial relations with these countries. This reeks of the sort of turncoat bloodlust with which European soccer clubs go after players from rival teams.
5. Their fans sing songs. All game and with little incentive.
Now, let me be clear - I don't have a problem with soccer. Here in the Northwest, saying you don't like soccer is akin to proclaiming that you don't recycle. It's not a crime, but is nevertheless frowned upon. My problem, you see, is that I really love basketball and while all the quirky Europeanness of soccer is well and good with me, I don't want to see it get in the way of my slam dunks. Pretty soon, we'll just have people flopping about on the court in feigned pain and crowds that get really excited when someone almost scores.