“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
Hi Teammates! This quote sums it up when it comes to why America has lost ground to the rest of the world in basketball. Spain now holds the number one ranking in the world. For the first time EVER, the USA is in second place. The rest of the world is the “hard work” and America is the “talent” in the quote above. The USA has dominated for so long, that there is a sense of arrogance although the events of the last 25-30 years suggests that the rest of the world have been working extremely hard while America has rested on its reputation.
America’s dominance slip on the world basketball scene has been coming for quite a while now and I wrote a blog about it some months ago as a warning to American players. You can read it here:
It would be easy to blame it on the 1992 Dream Team, but in truth, the Dream Team was created due to the failures of Team USA on the international stage before 1992. The Dream team just showed the world what beautiful basketball could be and it accelerated the pace of ideas and actions many international basketball federations already had.
There are multiple reasons why America has lost its chokehold on the basketball scene but I only want to address a few that I believe attributed to it the most, and from the view of an American that has played, coached, and lived in Europe for the last 28 years.
- The original Dream Team…I came to play professionally in Europe 3 years after the Dream Team dominated the Olympics in 1992. American players were all the rage. Back the native players were just not that good. There were a few good ones, but in general, we as Americans at that time were still looked at like Demigods and that was in part due to how the original Dream Team dominated the 1992 Olympics. I remember my first season in Europe, the native players on my team were in awe of me and the other two Americans on my team. How well we played, dictated wins or losses. These days it is much different.
- Coaching Part 1…Back in 1995, there were a LOT of American coaches in Europe. They came here and gave knowledge. The young native players and coaches sucked up that knowledge like a sponge. Those coaches eventually went back home to coach at colleges, leaving the European coaches time to develop themselves. Many of the best coaches in European basketball were probably young players back then in 1992. A majority of them were probably trained by American coaches or had contact with American basketball in some way. If you don’t believe me, check the ages of the Euroleague coaches. See how many are between the ages of 45-50. Barcelona’s coach Sarunas Jasikevicius is 46 years old and played basketball in college at the University of Maryland. These coaches came up in this era and have developed their own style, but I would lay my hand on the fire to say that many had American influences when they were young. They adapted what they learned back then to fit the European style of play over the years.
- Coaching Part 2…Native players have gotten better due to better coaching. Many European countries have made a strong push to make their coaches better. They want their citizens to coach their national teams. It is a matter of pride. Because these countries have made it a point that their coaches learn from other coaches around Europe, the dependency on American coaches has decreased drastically. Here is an example. In the German 1st league, this season there is only one American coach. Back when I first played in Germany in 2002 there were many more! Another reason is that in most European countries coaches must have basketball coaching licenses. To coach on a high-level or a national team, you much go through a series of licenses. In Germany, you need at least 3 of them. The C-level is the basic beginner’s level. After completing the C-level, you are then allowed to register for the B-level. With the B-level you can coach high-level youth teams and all pro or semi-pro teams from the 2nd league downwards. With the A-level, you are able to coach in the top league of on not only Germany, but most other top leagues in Europe. You can also coach a national team in most European countries. I have all three levels and I can tell you it isn’t easy, and it is also a sizable financial investment as well. You will be investing in your coaching pedigree. This system weeds out the coaches that are not serious about their craft. It doesn’t mean an A-level coach is better than a C-level one, but there is a time and financial component that shows which coaches want to develop themselves.
- National Players…Because coaches have gotten better, the players have of course benefited and gotten better. These days native players are not just riding the bench. They are now the main components of teams and truthfully, they aren’t afraid of Americans anymore. They do not take a back seat and watch the Americans do everything these days. The lower the league, the more teams rely on their foreign players, but in top leagues across Europe, the native players have much bigger roles and even start ahead of some Americans. The rules of European countries concerning how many foriegn players each team is allowed has something to do with that as well (I will write more on that later), but the rules have benefited native players over the years.
END OF PART ONE…