NBA Superstars Talk Euroleague, Send Message To Stern

Josh Childress is one thing, LeBron James is a completely different story. Following Childress’ unprecedented move for an American player in his prime years signing to play in Europe, James and fellow current NBA royalty Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony openly welcomed the possibility of playing in Europe when they become free agents.

All three players were quoted saying it would be difficult to turn down a salary as high as $50 million per season. Hint to David Stern, that’s obviously a league with no salary cap. Realistically, take the comments for what they’re worth. It’s unlikely to see a mega NBA star walk to Europe in his prime, leaving the endorsements, the life, and the chance for a championship. But, in no uncertain terms, the players sound prepared to fight for removing the maximum salary.

Whether James and Kobe speak in jest or not, Commissioner Stern can’t be happy. His two biggest meal tickets for the next decade overtly speaking out against the league during the Olympics, with the whole world listening. Second, the league can interpre the comments as a threat to remove the maximum player salary and team salary cap in the next CBA or face potential consequences. Responding to the Childress situation was easy, this response requires thought, but Stern must respond in some way. Since most of these players spoke about going to Europe in the future, expect the issue to blow into the background when the season starts. However, it’s not going away, and has the potential to become a big story as 2010 approaches.

James remarked how playing in Europe would transform Lebron into a global brand. AN interesting question, how valuable as an endorser is an NBA star playing in Europe? It’s a win-loss situation. Global companies and sponsors local to the area will salivate, while US companies unable to exploit the athlete to the same level nationally may step back. Superstars are superstars, but how valuable is Kobe if he plays and lives in Italy all season. His Q-rating in the country will likely decrease by virtue of the cameras not being on him day in and day out. Sponsors would lose the high recognition rate and association with players that are not playing domestically. In the end it might be a wash, Lebron and Kobe could conquer Europe, but take a step back in the US.

On the court, the NBA clearly needs James and Bryant more than they need the league. Basketball has always been a star-driven game, more so than any other major sport. Losing either of the two would be a serious blow in popularity and revenue. It also could start a mass exodus. If they can do it, why can’t others. On the other hand, removing the salary cap or maximum salary has numerous other ramifications. Either way, Europe is now a serious NBA competitor. If the NBA takes care of its stars, the large middle class of the league, like Childress, stand to earn substantially more in Europe than here, while if the league dismisses its superstars threats, Euroleague can make someone an offer they can’t refuse.

Stern needs to play his cards right. He has time, but should not try to avoid it. Meantime, many fans and players will keep an eye on Childress throughout the season to see how the experiment goes.


One Response

  1. If ever Lebron, Kobe, Wade leave this will ruin the NBA and force the NBA to combine with the Euroleague.

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