Whether you’re an NBA junkie or a college hoops fanatic, chances are that you’re in deep withdraws for basketball at this point. For NBAers especially, the thought of an impending lockout coupled with the loss of the summer league and no free agent signings creating a buss, excitement or disappointment probably has you swooning over Pro-Am hoops, highlights of big name street games or sketchy streams of promoted exhibitions.
If this applies to you, you likely were to check out some of the international competitions as well. Both, the FIBA Americas and EuroBasket tournaments featured quality organized basketball for hoops fiends.
Both tournaments not only lead to berths in the 2012 London Olympics, but are prestigious for the countries participating in their own right.
Some countries have even gone so far as to bring in big name coaches. Examples for each tournament would be University of Kentucky head coach John Callipari at the helm of the Dominican Republic side and “the czar” Mike Fratello leading the Eurpean underdog Ukraine.
But, the coaches weren’t the main attraction. And, both college “purists” and NBA “elitists” were get enjoyment from the international game.
For college fans, zone defense and no three defensive three seconds brought some familiarity. Add in that teams are for the most part limited to players born within their borders and it’s pretty tough for pundits to say that players are playing for the name on the back of their jersey as opposed to the one on the front.
You even can get a NCAA tournament type vibe via these tournaments, despite it not being a lose & go home type situation. There is a talent disparity that causes big favorites and likable underdogs, as was the case with Latvia bombing away from beyond the arc or the unexpected run by Finland.
While NBA followers may have been turned off by the so called NCAA vibe and teams of lesser quality, they definitely can find plenty of talent available from some countries. For example Spain has a number of NBA players in the back-court alongside one of the most impressive front-courts in the world, featuring Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder), Pau (LA Lakers) and Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies).
Additionally, finding familiar names to root for, root against, etc.. was completely feasible as most teams have at least one NBAer, former NBAer or future NBAer, not to mention the various former college players involved that play internationally whether naturalized or otherwise.
If seeing Manu Ginobili, Al Horford, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker and company wasn’t enough, then maybe the 24 second shot clock and NBA style offenses may have been enough to push you over the edge.
The rivalries, passion and simply the quality of basketball have made both international tournaments a worthy watch and if you haven’t been able to catch any of it, it is definitely worth your time.
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