The Olympics remind us that basketball is really a global game. And although the NBA is the most well-known professional basketball league, kids in other parts of the world dream to be part of their local basketball leagues as well. In fact, the number of NBA stars who have transferred from the NBA to the international scene show how appealing it is to take their talent beyond the NBA.
Here is a showcase to you some of the international professional basketball leagues outside of the USA that shows us basketball is truly a world class sport that can be enjoyed by almost every one.
Turkish Premiere Basketball League
Ever since the first Turkey Premiere Basketball League was started in the 1960s, Turkey has been a breeding ground for basketball. There are a total of 16 teams in the league that play against each other. Istanbul based players Clubs Fenerbahçe and Anadolu Efes conquered the domestic league and have been able to penetrate into the Euroleague as well. Also, a number of Turkish players have moved to play in the NBA. Hidayet Türkoğlu had a 15-year career in the NBA, and probably the most popular NBA player that played in Turkey is the basketball legend Allen Iverson (maybe he loves Turkish coffee?).
Lega Basket Serie A
Italy has been one of Europe’s first growth areas for basketball. Lega Basket Serie A, which translates to Serie A Basketball League, was established in 1920 and it’s the first and highest level in the Italian league. They play under FIBA rules and have a total of 16 teams. There are a total of 99 teams that have competed in the league since its founding. FIBA Europe’s and the Euroleague Basketball records show that the Lega Basket Serie A was the overall top ranked domestic league in Europe from 1958 to 2007. Today, it is considered as one of Europe’s top national basketball leagues. Andre Bargnani is the most famous NBA players that started his career in the Lega Basket Serie A.
Throughout the years, a couple of NBA players have been enticed to Serie A’s top club because of its multimillion-dollar contracts. In fact, Italy is the top country where aging basketball stars choose to go if they want to enjoy a successful career outside the NBA.
Chinese Basketball Association
The Chinese Basketball Association or CBA is the first professional men’s basketball league in China. It is also widely recognized as the pre-eminent men’s basketball league in Asia. The CBA is different from the National Basketball League because the NBL is a professional minor league. Ever since its foundation, the CBA has been proving that Chinese players have the potential and ambitions of having a career in the NBA. One of the most popular CBA players and probably the best-known Chinese athletes of all time was Yao Ming. He was the first to be selected in the 2002 NBA draft after playing successfully for five years with the Shanghai Sharks. The CBA also offers generous salaries and major marketing push attracting popular NBA players such as Tracy Mcgrady, Stephon Marbury, and Gilbert Arenas to go all the way to China to play basketball.
Also known as Liga Endesa, is the top professional basketball division in the Spanish basketball league. It is managed by Asociación de Clubs de Baloncesto or ACB. There are a total of 49 teams that have played in the Liga ACB since its establishment. It is considered as one of the best domestic leagues in the world. The Liga ACB rules the current European professional basketball scene. Some of the teams in the league are run by athletic clubs that also manage famous soccer franchises. Famous NBA players like the Gasol brothers, Luis Scola and Ricky Rubio started their careers in Liga ACB. Today, Liga ACB is considered as one of the best places to have a career in basketball because they are popular in Spain and they offer high salaries to their players.
Liga Nacional De Basquet
Commonly referred to as “La Liga”, Liga Nacional De Basquet is at the top of Argentine basketball league system. The league was founded in the 1980s by basketball coach Leon Najundel and sports journalist Osvaldo Orcasitas. Its goal is to make men’s basketball clubs in Argentina more competitive by merging existing local leagues. It is played like the NBA, they have a regular season, an all-star game and playoffs. In 2002, Argentina’s national basketball team knocked off the United States’ “dream team” at the FIBA World Championships. And they won gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Most of Argentina’s National Basketball Team at that time were products of the Liga Nacional. Famous NBA stars like Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili started their basketball careers in Argentina.
Baloncesto Superior Nacional
Balconesto Superior Nacional or BSN is the top professional men’s basketball league in Puerto Rico. It was established in 1929 by the Puerto Rican Basketball Federation. The league plays under the FIBA rules and consists of eight teams. The league has produced players that became popular in the NBA, Euroleague and ACB. The Puerto Rican National Basketball team mostly consists of players from the BSN, has had successful international careers. They qualified for the Olympic and World Championships, and received medals in the FIBA America tournament. They even beat America’s “Dream Team” at the 2004 Olympics.
This league consists of top-tier level professional basketball clubs. The best teams from the European professional league are eligible to join the annual competition. The top 18 teams will battle in the 24-team regular season. They qualify the teams based on the previous season’s ranking to assure a tight fight in every single game. Participating teams in the Euroleague can also play in their domestic leagues that is why it’s like they are competing for several trophies during one season.
These are some basketball leagues outside the USA. There are a lot more basketball leagues existing all over the world. So, if you are a basketball junkie and you’re interested in joining your local basketball league or teams, don’t be hesitant to do so. As we mentioned earlier, some of the famous NBA stars started from local leagues before making it big in the international scene. Who knows who will make the move next to the NBA and be the next Yao Ming, or Paul Gasol.