Cohen: NBA Training Camps Overseas?

By Josh Cohen
July 19, 2012

ORLANDO -- For all you Floridians, March is always an exciting and refreshing time of year.

Especially for those that are avid summer sports fans, a proliferation of professional baseball is spread across the state for an entire month.

While the games are generally meaningless, spring training baseball allows Yankees and Braves supporters, for example, to watch their teams prepare up close. There are some enthusiasts that spend the whole month roaming the circuit to glance at each team.

It’s only rational, naturally, for baseball to transport to the south in March considering much of the U.S. deals with 30-something degree weather and those oppressive fluffy crystals that artlessly drop from the sky.

But aside from its most coherent purpose, a temporary relocation is quite absorbing.

While its completely unnecessary and insipid for other pro sports like the NBA to house their exhibition schedule in one or two random U.S. states like baseball, it may be supreme for training camp and preseason to reposition overseas.

From all the NBA enthusiasts in China and the Philippines to the rousing supporters across European countries like Spain, Italy and France to the inspired hoops fanatics in South America, imagine a month with the best athletes in the world in their backyard.

My vision is rather simple: All 30 teams would divide into six allotments – forming divisions of five spread throughout the world during October’s exhibition schedule. Here is an example in a particular year as all the teams would lodge in a designated city and play a total of four preseason games:

Shanghai, China: The Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, New Orleans Hornets, L.A. Clippers and Charlotte Bobcats would spend October showcasing their potential and preparation in front of the millions of fans in China. Jeremy Lin would be a spectacle, for sure.

Madrid, Spain: The Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder and L.A. Lakers will permit the natives to watch their heroes, including Ricky Rubio, Pau and Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon and Serge Ibaka compete against one another for a month.

Paris, France: The San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Washington Wizards vie for local ascendancy as the French will get the opportunity to observe Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Mickael Pietrus, Ronny Turiaf and Kevin Seraphin play.

Sao Paulo, Brazil: Anderson Varejao will be the spotlight amongst his favorite fans in Brazil as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks will train for the NBA season.

Johannesburg, South Africa: A more distinctive setting and a city ready to embrace the NBA, the Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings team up to give African admirers an unforgettable show.

Manila, Philippines: It’s no secret that the Philippines love the NBA. So for the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks it will be a treat to entertain in front of those eager supporters.

It would clearly be costly for every team to spend a relatively significant portion of time in various countries spread across several continents. But when you consider the impact, the investment seems well worth it.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has repeatedly stated that he wants the game to become as global as possible. There have even been talks in the past of creating NBA teams that would be hosted in other countries outside of North America.

Each year, preseason games are scheduled all over the world. This upcoming season, for instance, the Magic and Hornets will play each other in Mexico City, while the Mavericks will play exhibitions in Barcelona and Berlin, the Celtics will do the same in Istanbul and Milan and the Heat and Clippers will travel to Beijing and Shanghai. 

To date, the NBA has staged a total of 107 games outside of the U.S. and Canada in 17 countries across Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Yes, it is more convenient to just have a larger fraction of exhibition games played locally. And it may seem a bit far-fetched for NBA teams and players to have to splurge some extra time away from their families.

But undeniably, once all the players get a chance to see the smiles on the faces of all of these ecstatic NBA fans who may never get the opportunity to watch their favorite stars up close, a few weeks of exploring a different culture would be valuable and greatly appreciated.

No insult on Major League Baseball, but rather than hanging out in Florida and Arizona for a month, it would be even more amazing for pro sports teams to chill in some unique cities and entertain all those devotees overseas craving some NBA action in their lives.

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