David Stern was a visionary for the NBA as commissioner. While people certainly don't agree with every move he made while in charge of the league, the global growth the league has seen during his 30 years as NBA commissioner showed just how optimistic and successful his vision was. It will be Adam Silver's job to keep the globalization of the NBA going and one way he could do it is by considering a vision super agent David Falk claims Stern had for global expansion.
In this Stern piece on CBSSports.com by Ken Berger, Falk mentions that Stern wanted to stop competing so much with the NFL, shorten the season in North America, and possibly have a second season with NBA teams in Europe and possibly other areas of the world. While this would be an incredibly extreme idea to turn the NBA into a summer event, finding a way to alter the current schedule with having a real set of games in Europe against European teams isn't totally far-fetched.
“Because of the strength of American football on television in the fall, really all the way up to the Super Bowl ... his vision was to start the [NBA] season right after the Super Bowl, take it up to the baseball All-Star game, and possibly cut it back to maybe 60 games,” Falk said. “And then you'd have a whole separate season in Europe and possibly in Asia. You could have a whole European league in Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, Athens and you'd have teams composed of Europeans and Americans of NBA quality playing an NBA schedule for six months. That's how you really make it global. Televising it there and selling merchandise is a teaser. But to really make it international, you have to play there. Not just exhibitions, a real schedule.”
If Stern shared this vision with Falk, I'm quite sure he shared it with Silver, who has occupied the same floor of Olympic Tower in Manhattan for the past two decades. Silver expanded NBA operations to China, a nation where, as Falk points out, “There are more people who play basketball every day than there are people who live in America.”
Stern introduced NBA basketball to the world with the Dream Team, and his stubborn imperialism has given us exhibition games and scattered regular season games all over the globe. Over the next decade, it will be Silver's job to export the game in a tangible, permanent, meaningful way.
This is a very radical idea, clearly.
But could it work? The NBA keeps talking about expanding into Europe, but you'd need to have more than one team over there and probably more than two. It would require longer road trips for existing teams, especially teams on the west coast and in the middle of the country. That would require huge money commitments from existing ownership groups and future ownership groups looking to get into the league with European expansion.
This is such a dramatic change that it would probably wouldn't come up in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations in 2017 and maybe not even in the CBA negotiations after that agreement expires. It's fun to see the league wanting bigger things for itself and thinking very outside the box in a way other professional sports leagues haven't really considered. This could be the next big step for the NBA.