Stern: 'For sure' there'll be multiple NBA teams in Europe in 20 years

By Royce Young | NBA writer
The NBA could be headed across the pond. (Getty Images)

David Stern is stepping down as commissioner on Feb. 1, 2014, which will mark exactly 30 years sitting on the NBA's throne.

So within the next year or so, he's got a lot of things to do before he passes the big chair to Adam Silver. One of those things is possibly setting plans in motion to return the NBA to Seattle, something he's reportedly "determined" to do.

Another expansion idea Stern has? Taking the NBA to Europe. Though it's not something he'll likely be involved with. On SVP & Russillo, Stern acted as if it's a certainty the NBA will have a European team.

"I think so," Stern said when asked if he sees a team in Europe at some point. "I think multiple NBA international teams. Twenty years from now? For sure. In Europe. No place else. In other places I think you'll see the NBA name on leagues and other places with marketing and basketball support, but not part of the NBA as we now know it."

It might sound a little crazy, but it shouldn't. Because it almost happened already with an expansion team in London. Via the Boston Globe:

There was a time when Stern had dreams of a team or even a division in Europe, a first in American sports. He was determined to devise a way for a group of teams in London, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, and Berlin to compete with the 30 stateside NBA teams and even have a real world championship series.

Regardless of how uncomfortable the idea made fans who believe 30 teams was enough -- and regardless of how inconceivable it might be to have a team in a time zone six hours ahead of the Eastern US -- Stern was going to add the London Abbeys to the NBA.

That idea died on the operating table though, because the international economy went rotten and because there aren't any NBA-style arenas overseas.

Which is why Stern put the 20-year timetable on it. Because within that time frame, someone is probably going to build an NBA arena with luxury boxes and concessions and 20,000 seats. Once that happens, an expansion team in London or Barcelona is probably an inevitability.

The NBA is already the second-most globalized game in the world behind soccer, so it's natural to try to expand its borders. There's money to be made internationally. And building a bridge between the NBA and Euroleague would certainly be an interesting evolution.

I know what you're thinking. How is this possible? How could the Trail Blazers take a road trip to Rome on the second night of a back-to-back?

Well, consider this: A flight from New York to London is roughly seven and a half hours. A flight from New York to Los Angeles is roughly six hours. So in the same way schedule-makers set up West and East Coast road trips, it would probably be the same for European trips. It would complicate NBA travel for sure, but it's possible. Especially since we'll probably all be able to teleport in 20 years anyway.

Still, with the league coming off a lockout where the owners cried poor, doesn't it seem odd to be adding more teams, which means the pie gets split even more? There are a lot of variables that will be in play to this actually happening, one being the health of the league.

This isn't something Stern will be overseeing during his tenure. Twenty years is a long time, and a whole lot of things can change. It's something on the radar, though, and Stern seems exceedingly confident it's going to happen. So start getting your mind wrapped around the idea of an East Coast road trip including a stop in London.

 
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