If you asked me what I would do if money weren’t an option, I’d say NBA Commissioner. And as such, I will spell out in detail my major platform, so to speak, towards improving the quality of the NBA.
I have heard reports the NBA wants to expand into Europe by creating a new division with teams in London, Berlin, Barcelona, and Paris. This wouldn’t work. Too much travel, and it doesn’t allow for easy expansion from there. What I do think would work is that the NBA buy or work toward a merger with the Euroleague and the Chinese League (Austrailia). There has to be enough money in the NBA coffers to flat out purchase it. This will allow for the expansion of the game globally, new influence over FIBA, and essentially guarantee the NBA game is played in International Competitions
But isn’t that the same thing as creating a new division?
No, because instead of 4 teams, you get the 24 existing Euroleague teams and the existing infrastructure and fan bases, without the traveling and scheduling headaches. This will not necessrily mean instant NBA status for International Clubs, but soon it will equalize, with time, and touring popular NBA Clubs bringing money into the International Clubs. Remember the most popular team in the world is the Houston Rockets, and its not because of anything they’ve done, besides drafting Yao.
How will it work?
The current NBA schedule has too many meaningless games. Teams are known to tank for a better chance at the top draft pick. Good teams are known to coast until the New Year, and then start playing 100%. If my math is correct, this means a quarter of the teams are not trying as hard as they can at any time throughout the year. Who wants to see that? I believe a series of additional tournaments will increase the importance of each game.
I, as hypothetical Commissioner, would propose adding a Champions League, and a Secondary Cup. The Champions League would be a 16 Team tournament, played throughout the year, with the top 8 NBA Teams, Top 7 Euroleague Teams, and the Top 1 from Asia. Would be modeled off the highly successful, UEFA Champions League in Soccer, with pool play formats. Some other things to consider would be automatic qualification for the defending champion.
The yet to be corporately sponsored Secondary Cup, would also be 16 teams. The next 8 from the NBA (9-16), 6 from Europe (7-12), and 2 others (Asia 2,3). (Use the Europa Cup for an example). Give the players a good bonus for winning this Cup.
The remaining NBA teams who did not qualify for a tournament (17-30), would then enter a tournament for NBA draft order. Winner gets the #1 pick (and possibly a guaranteed spot in a better tournament next year). Theory is every team is playing (not tanking) for something meaningful. Europe can have a similar competition. Young teams can be rewarded for playing hard. Fans can get behind this.
The number of games in the NBA regular season would also have to be shortened to accommodate these tournaments. I considered relegation and two divisions. However, I do not imagine owners ever going for that in American Sports. And I can see their point. They need the Superstars coming into their building once a year. That’s why I propose a 58 game schedule, a home and road with each team. 3 games a week and that’s 20 weeks (Preseason/Exhibitions in September, Regular Season: October 1- Feb-28)
A simpler NBA playoff can then exist for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Just 8 teams (maybe 16? pool play? Top from each pool play 3/5, then Finals?), best of 5, until the Finals, where they can go 7. (March)
Take April off, begin the international competitions in May & June. July and August can be for International Tournaments (Olympics usually fall in early August) and Club team transfers (that’s European for Free Agency). Year round Basketball. Gotta love it! Most these players go year round now as is, but they will still have breaks in the schedule and a less grueling regular season.
As Commissioner, I would make this work. This would be exciting and propel basketball into the boniafide #2 world sport, and challenge soccer for the top spot.
*Note: There may be a Part 2 in the future where I explain free agency and the draft, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this.