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A Call For International Games To Be Televised

You might find it odd that I want to start by talking a very little about European football (soccer). If there's a sport of the world, soccer is it, and the international game is very slowly making its way into the American mainstream media. One of its larger obstacles to making headway in the States is its lack of recognizable, domestic stars. It is simply harder for the average sports fan to get enthusiastic about an international sport where rooting for the national team consists of cheering for players s/he has never heard of before. A little research fixes that, but we're talking about the average fan, here.

It is precisely that element of recognizability that could possibly see international basketball make a big leap in terms of capturing a piece of the most lucrative basketball market in the world.

This is a country where the University of Texas has a 24-hour-a-day network deal with ESPN.  So before you poo-poo the idea that foreign basketball could find it's way onto U.S. national television, you should remember what the dormouse, I mean Ziller, said: the players are the attraction, owners are replaceable.  Now, the NBA is an infrastructural juggernaut with all the momentum and it's going to take more than a lost season to displace them, but international basketball has chance like no other before them to get their foot in the door.

The NBA will be back, and it will still reign supreme, I'm not deluded. However, there's a quote from Andrew Sharp about the recent D.C.-Baltimore game that is particularly telling:

Behind me, I heard a fan complaining about ticket prices. "Man for 40 dollars they better be servin' us a meal in there." Another voice: "Man $40? They coulda charged A HUNDRED for this."

Of course, international ball will never consist of fans paying a pittance to stand ten feet away from the court as LeBron James and Kevin Durant go at each other like a basketball version of Highlander. At the same time, there is absolutely a market for lockout-starved fans to watch the players they love battle overseas, and ultra-brief highlights from 'The Worldwide Leader in Sports' won't even come close to cutting it.

There are other problems as well. International time zones means watching live streams is impossible for most U.S. fans, but that's why Baby Jeebus invented the DVR. Another difficulty might simply consist of the extremely disparate nature of international ball. It's not like these world leagues are this cohesive entity any more than the United Nations is. Teams in Australia won't play league games in France.

But in the end we all want to see Kobe Bryant annihilate SOMEbody. Hell, the NBA created the model when they pioneered League Pass. But that represents a LOT of preparation, and it is unlikely international leagues are prepared to take full advantage of the lockout. But they should definitely try.  Anything less than a full court press in this situation would be almost as silly as most of David Stern's talking points.