NBA players need reality check regarding overseas jobs

July 25, 2011
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The list of NBA players looking to jump to European leagues is long and getting longer with each passing day of the labor feud with team owners.

Several Indiana Pacers are among those reportedly exploring their options overseas.

I’m not sure if there is an overabundance of optimism about opportunities for professional basketball players in Europe or an under-abundance of information.

Here’s a reality check. The economy in Europe is at least as depressed as it is here in the U.S. A realistic salary for an NBA Player not named Kobe Bryant or Deron Williams is $90,000 annually.

Salaries in Europe are often paid by sponsors and are rarely guaranteed. Players in Europe routinely get about half of what they’re promised as teams hit financial hardships.

Players whose sponsors do come through with all of their salaries often get less because the teams take some of that money and spread it around to other players whose sponsors don’t come up with as much as they promised.

Players who fight sharing their pay with teammates are frowned upon. They also are known never to get a pass from a teammate again.

The number of teams in the Spanish and Italian professional leagues that have declared bankruptcy in the last year is in double digits. Remember, those are two of the biggest European professional leagues, and the Spanish league is the second-biggest in the world next to the NBA.

For NBA players who don’t like practice, forget about Europe. Practices for European teams are known to be full-contact. Most players are on one-year contracts, and most European players love nothing more than to show up an NBA player, in practice or in games. It’s a good way to secure a job.

In Europe, players stay in hotels more akin to a YMCA than The Conrad. There are no all-you-can-eat surf-and-turf buffets, and no roomy, comfy locker rooms, and workout facilities aren’t always state-of-the-art. Players are more likely to take a long bus ride to games than to fly first class.

And there aren’t a plethora of billionaire owners in Europe willing to pay huge salaries and operate at eight- and nine-digit annual losses.

As for European owners, most will want a guarantee that NBA players won’t jump ship mid-season should the NBA lockout end. That will be a difficult pill to swallow for many NBA players.

The list of players saying they’re jumping to Europe in the case of a long NBA lockout may be long. But the fact is, the demand for their services overseas isn’t all that great.

  • Interesting
    Nice article. I have known people who played in Europe...most were fairly well paid, and got paid their full amount (at least they said they did), but that was prior to the recession that has hit worldwide, and that affected Europe even prior to the US...It is good to hear the reality check. I don't know what your sources are, but I knew a guy who played in the Mexican summer leagues several years ago, and that was similar to what you describe here...he got paid for about half of the season by the time it was over, was supposed to get 20K and got maybe any rate, you are right...that is a reality...Dwight Howard, and the stars of the NBA might get paid, but some of the other guys won't...and accomodations, travel, those things are much more pedestrian everywhere else. I bet Shelvin Mack will wish he was back in his dorm at Butler before this is over...I feel bad for the guys who are coming out this year...looks like the lockout could be long.
    I hope some of the NBA guys do go to Eurpoe...maybe then they will have a better appreciation for what they have
  • NBA players wont really play in Europe
    Great article. It just sounds like idle threats made in an attempt to pressure NBA owners. We all know these guys likely wont to play in Europe. Besides all the legitimate reasons you have detailed in your article, I would think the biggest reason of all would be concerns and risk of injury.

    If they played in Europe and got hurt, wouldnt that hurt their stock? Also, I think back to what happened to Aaron Boone when he got hurt playing pick up basketball in the off season. They used that to void his contract with certain language. Of course it help them when they acquired ARod, but still think this is another no go factor for them.
  • Do you have any facts?
    Very interesting, but much of this seems like conjecture. Do you have any stats or facts to backup assertions such as "The economy in Europe is at least as depressed as it is here in the U.S" and "Players in Europe routinely get about half of what they’re promised as teams hit financial hardships"?

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