NBA expands youth basketball Initiative with new global competition

Brian Martin, for NBA.com

In addition to showcasing the best basketball on the planet, a core tenet of the NBA is growing the game of basketball around the world. With the announcement of the inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship, the NBA took another major step in those efforts.

This first-of-its-kind competition will feature the top boys and girls teams ages 14 and under not only from the United States, but also from every corner of the globe.

Related: NBA announces Jr. NBA World Championship

The Jr. NBA World Championship tips off in spring 2018 with U.S. and international competitions across various regional sites. The winning boys and girls teams from eight newly-created U.S. regional tournaments (Central, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southeast and West), plus teams representing eight international regions (Africa & Middle East, Asia Pacific, Canada, China, Europe, India, Mexico and South America), will compete in the culminating event at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in August.

The event will be separated into U.S. and international brackets that include round-robin competition followed by single-elimination boys and girls tournaments. Winners of the U.S. and international brackets will play in the championship games on Aug. 12.

“The Jr. NBA World Championship represents another significant step in our effort to promote youth basketball globally,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “And in addition to high-level competition on the court, participants will learn from NBA and WNBA veterans and coaches the values of the game and the most appropriate training techniques.”

A key component of this competition – and what helps separate it from other youth basketball events – is that it will align with NBA and USA Basketball Youth Guidelines as well as requiring all participating coaches be trained and licensed by USA Basketball (U.S.-based coaches) or FIBA (international coaches).

“We developed over the last year with USA Basketball and a group of basketball experts, a set of guidelines and standards that really focused on player health and wellness, to really make sure that kids were not playing too often at too young of an age,” said Kathy Behrens, President, Social Responsibility & Player Programs for the NBA. “So this tournament will follow those standards and guidelines. It’s also a tournament that is not going to just focus on the on-court competition, but on community programming, life skills programming.”

Cleveland Cavaliers guard and three-time NBA Champion Dwyane Wade and Los Angeles Sparks forward and WNBA Champion Candace Parker will serve as lead global ambassadors for the Jr. NBA World Championship. Both players not only excel on the court, but also are devoted parents that have first-hand knowledge of the importance of youth sports.

“You couldn’t ask for two better champions of the game and two better champions of the values that this program will stand for than Candace and Dwyane,” said Behrens.”

“I am excited to serve as a global ambassador for the Jr. NBA World Championship,” said Wade. “Basketball means so much to me and my family, and I look forward to helping the NBA improve the game at the youth level for the next generation of players from around the world.”

“The Jr. NBA World Championship is a great initiative that will connect U.S. and international youth in a meaningful way,” said Parker. “As a global ambassador, I’m looking forward to making a positive impact on the participants, both on and off the court.”

According to Behrens, the logistics of putting an event like this together was a huge undertaking, but one that the NBA was ready to take head on thanks to the leadership of Commissioner Silver.

“I would say we’ve really been planning it in earnest for the last year, but the idea and the sort of vision really goes back to when Adam become commissioner [in 2014] … One of the things he really pushed us on was to think about ways we could be more engaged in youth basketball.”

“We think this is an opportunity to not only engage young girls and boys and celebrate their love of basketball, but also help talk about the issues, like teamwork, respect, determination, diversity, inclusion, all of those things that are core values of our program will be a part of this event.”

More information about the Jr. NBA World Championship can be found at www.jrnba.com/worldchampionship. Registration for teams to compete in the Jr. NBA World Championship is not yet open but those that sign up online will be notified as soon as registration information is available.