Masai Ujiri’s international expertise has been well-documented, but just what does the scope of basketball leagues outside the US look like?
There Is Life Beyond NBA – The Biggest Leagues Outside the USA
There are many major differences between sports fans in the USA and Europe. For one, there is their favorite sport – European sports fans love soccer and Formula 1 instead of NFL and NASCAR. Besides, they prefer to follow the big games on TV at sports pubs instead of their own sports-themed man-caves… and the list could go on forever. The fact that they are different, European sports are not any less worthy than American ones. So, let us take a look today at the best basketball leagues on the other side of the ocean.
What the NBA is for USA and Canada, national leagues are for European basketball. Many countries are pretty excellent at this sport – some of the best in the world. Spain’s Liga ACB, the Spanish first division, for example, has five teams (of 18) competing in the European championship, and the Turkish Basketball Super League (BSL) is also considered a big name in the pan-European basketball world, with its leading team, Fenerbahce.
Surprising as it may sound, players often transition between these leagues and the NBA – former NBA flameout Omar Cook, for example, currently plays for the ACB side Movistar Estudiantes, and CJ McCollum’s older brother Errick is at his second full season in Turkey. The list of NBA players coming from Europe is also pretty long – Turkish player Ömer Aşık currently plays with the New Orleans Pelicans, and let’s not forget the Raptors’ own Jorge Garbajosa, the current president of the Spanish Basketball Federation, who spent two years at the Canadian team.
EuroCup is the second-tier basketball championship in Europe with 24 teams competing for the ultimate prize – the promotion to EuroLeague (more on that below). To qualify, the teams need to perform well in their domestic leagues. The winner of the EuroCup automatically qualifies for the EuroLeague, Europe’s premier professional basketball competition.
The EuroLeague has 60 years of history behind it – it has run under its current name for almost two decades. It is the top-tier European basketball competition, and one of the most popular indoor sports leagues in the world, with an average attendance of around 8,780 for league matches in the latest season. All 16 teams play with each other twice – once at home and once away – with the top-placed 8 teams entering the playoffs. After four playoff series, the winners advance to the Final Four, playing for the first four places in the tournament.
The most successful team in the EuroLeague is Real Madrid, having won ten titles over the years – the Liga ACB team is the current European champion.