I remember when I was a kid and heard all the time that soccer was the most popular
game in the world. This always seemed strange to me, since it was impossible to find a game on television (and
still is today). Everybody I knew played soccer,
all hours of the day, every day of the week every week of the year. It was a passion
to us. But, when we started to get a little age on us, we realized we had to turn to
other sports. The powers that be were just scared of soccer, like it was a communist
threat hoisted on us by Kruschev or something like that.
For many of us, basketball was our sport of choice. You could play if you were quick
and speedy or if you were tall and awkward. Plus we figured we were safe playing
basketball. It was uniquely American. None of that Japanese variety like baseball or
any of that World League of American Basketball. Yep. Basketball was as American
as mom and apple pie. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Well, emphasis on the was
It seems our great American game invented by James Naismith in Springfield, Mass.
has been invaded by those darned Europeans. [Editor's Note: It may have been invented in the US, but Naismith was a Canadian!]
I'm kidding of course, and I hope I haven't offended anybody, but what I wanted to
write about was the growth of basketball all over Europe and its influence on America
and the NBA.
Anyone who watches the NBA on a regular basis knows that the number of European
born players in the NBA has grown by an amazing number over the last decade.
Players like Tony Kukoch, Detlef Schrempf and Rik Smitz have not only made a
career out of playing in the NBA, but really have made a serious impact on the
overall make-up of the league. One reason in particular is that most of our foreign
born NBA starts are big men.
Bob Ryan, a sports columnist and regular on ESPN's Sunday morning show Sports
Reporters made them comment that over half of the current NBA centers starting in
the NBA are foreign born. He, for one, was kind of pissed off about it. I'm really not
sure why. To me, it just shows how much basketball has travelled the world almost
like soccer has done, with the exception of America, in the last decade.
Maybe one of the reasons basketball has become so popular in parts of Europe and
even Africa is a player can work on his/her skills and practice his/her game with no
one else. I don't know this for a fact, but maybe in parts of Europe, such as Slovakia
which is suffering so much civil turmoil, it is difficult to find other people to engage
in leisure activities. It's hard to play a game of soccer with just a handful of people.
Basketball is game where a player can learn the sport with just another person. One
In the midst of civil strife and rapidly changing geographical regions, basketball is a
creative outlet that can be worked on and honed in solitude. And, as the game's
popularity increases, we can expect more of a foreign influence to continue in a
particularly American pastime.
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