Basketball parity worldwide

Basketball parity worldwide

Basketball parity worldwide is the trend which has seen the United States dominance of the sport decline over the past ten years. Much like the sport of soccer, basketball has become an international game generating interest from many countries around the world. Basketball was created in Springfield, Massachusetts by Dr. James Naismith in 1891 [ [ Basketball. Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.. 30 Apr 2008] ] and has grown to generate millions of dollars. The recent influx of non-U.S. players into the United States further demonstrates that the sport is now an international game whereas previously the United States had dominated in international competition.

U.S. dominance

For many years, FIBA (International Basketball Federation) regulations prevented NBA players from participating in international competition. All of this changed in 1989 when it was ruled NBA players should be allowed to represent their country in competition [] . The turning point for international basketball was considered by many to be the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. This was the first international competition where professional athletes from the NBA were allowed to compete for team USA. The team was composed of NBA greats such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, and Charles Barkley. The team won all eight of its games with a championship game victory over Croatia by 32 points (the team’s closest game of the competition) [] . This performance was an indicator to other countries how far ahead the U.S. was in basketball superiority.

The world catches up

Ten years after the United States dominating showing in the 1992 Olympics, the U.S. hosted the World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana. The U.S. team lost three games and finished in sixth place, its worst showing ever [] . Two years later, the U.S. would finish third in the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. At this time, it was more than apparent the rest of the world had caught up with the United States in the sport.

The NBA takes notice

As of 2008, there are continued examples of parity in the sport of basketball around the world. In an exhibition game in 2006, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers lost to FC Barcelona in just the sixth loss of an NBA team competing in international competition. The Toronto Raptors lost to Maccabi Tel Aviv the previous year in an exhibition game as well. [] Many observers feel the reason for the non U.S. resurgence is that the U.S. players focus more on individual accomplishments whereas non-U.S. players are more team oriented. [] Regardless of the reason, NBA scouts have taken notice of non U.S. talent and started to recruit it to the NBA. As of April 16th, 2008, the NBA featured 76 non U.S. players from 31 different countries and territories. In comparison, ten years prior in 1998, the NBA featured 29 international players from 21 countries and territories. [] All signs point to the continued expansion of non U.S. recruitment as well. Out of the sixty players projected to be taken in the 2008 NBA draft, fourteen of them are from outside the United States. [] One team in the 2008 NBA playoffs (Toronto Raptors) features a roster with six non U.S. players out of fourteen total. []

Possible European expansion of the NBA

Now that basketball parity is reaching a high level around the world, NBA commissioner David Stern has come up with an idea to start five NBA teams in Europe. The idea would be to create the teams as to form a “European” division within the NBA. The teams would play a full schedule and compete for an NBA title. With more market research, it is very possible that this could be the future expansion project of the NBA [] .


While it has become fairly obvious that foreign countries are able to compete with the United States in basketball, it does not leave the subject without its doubters. John Hollinger, an ESPN writer, has found a direct correlation with a player’s statistics in a foreign country as compared to the NBA. In Hollinger’s study, a player’s scoring decreases by 25%, rebounding increases by 18%, assist rate increases by 31%, shooting percentage drops by 12%, and their overall PER, which is in itself a formula derived by NBA scouts to evaluate players performances, drops by 30% [] .


2. "USA Basketball History." USA Basketball. 2008. 30 Apr 2008

3,4. "The Globalized Association." Pop Matters. 28 Jan 2003. 30 Apr 2008

5. "76ers lose to FC Barcelona." ESPN. 5 Oct 2006. 29 Apr 2008

6. Johnson, Christopher. Basketball: World championships reflect a new parity." International Herald Tribune 12 Sept 2006: Sports.

7. "NBA Players From Around The World: 2007-08 Season." 16 Apr 2008. 29 Apr 2008

8. "2008 Mock Draft." 28 Apr 2008. 29 Apr 2008

9. "Players." 30 Apr 2008. 28 Apr 2008

10. Thomsen, Ian. "NBA mulling idea of five-team expansion in Europe." Sports Illustrated 13 Feb 2008 28 Apr 2008

11. Hollinger, John. "Forecasting the NBA careers of recently drafted international players." ESPN. 29 June 2007. 28 Apr 2008

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