NBA goes global for its future
Updated: 2015-02-16 23:26
By JACK FREIFELDER in New York(China Daily USA)
From left: Hu Jinqiu, Shen Zijie and Zhao Yanhao, three basketball players from China, take part in the NBA's Basketball Without Borders Global Camp this week, an event that invited 39 players from 23 countries to minicamps in New York timed to coincide with the 2015 the NBA's All-Star Weekend. JACK FREIFELDER / CHINA DAILY
Some call it the most exciting week of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) season because of the hordes of celebrities it draws. That said, NBA All-Star Weekend is normally just a chance for the preeminent professional players to shine on some of basketball's brightest stages.
This year the league decided to give some prominent, young international players a chance to share in the experience, including three from China.
For the first time in the league's history, Basketball Without Borders (BWB), the NBA and International Basketball Federation's (FIBA) global basketball development program, hosted one of its global camps in the US.
The event, which ran from Feb 13-15 at Baruch College in downtown New York, invited 39 international players aged 16-to-18 from 23 countries to take part in a three-day minicamp, complete with strength and conditioning work, situational drill training and 5-on-5 scrimmages.
The campers also got the chance to attend the NBA All-Star weekend events at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York and Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.
Some of the countries represented in the group included: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Nigeria, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa and Spain.
NBA China CEO David Shoemaker said the BWB camps are part of the league's global effort to "really grow the game".
"There are three Chinese kids taking part, and we've got our staff from our basketball operations team in China over with them," Shoemaker told China Daily.
"Adam Silver has said he wants basketball to be the No 1 sport in the world, and the Basketball Without Borders program is key to that."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the reward for the hard work of these young players is the opportunity to be a part of All-Star weekend.
"That advances the game," Silver said during a press conference. "The game is my focus and youth basketball is the future of this game."
"Those camps have taken place all over the world," Silver said. "When they go home, and other young players hear about this incredible experience, it just makes it that much more likely that other young great athletes will turn to basketball."
Several NBA players also took part in the BWB global camp event as coaches: including Danilo Gallinari of Italy (Denver Nuggets); Gorgui Dieng of Senegal (Minnesota Timberwolves); and Tiago Splitter of Brazil (defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs).
Splitter said some of the most vivid memories he has from a childhood in his hometown of Blumenau, Brazil involve going to pick-up basketball games with his father.
"We have players coming out of Brazil, but it’s improving," Splitter said. "The NBA is helping us now, so more people are going to watch basketball and that’s great. You’re never going to grow if you don’t have basketball in schools, and I think the US is a great model."
The first BWB event in the US was timed to coincide with the 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend, which gave the league a chance to link up the two endeavors. Going forward, the BWB Global Camp will be come an annual All-Star tradition, the NBA said in a press release.
The inaugural Basketball Without Borders (BWB) event took place in Europe back in July 2001. Since then, BWB has held 39 BWB camps across 22 cities in 19 countries, and the program has included more than 2,200 campers from 120 countries and territories around the world.
In that time, 33 players that came through a BWB camp ended up being drafted into the NBA.