As a former European basketball player and coach, and current consultant, I’d like to share my perspective on the ongoing debate between European basketball, particularly the Euroleague, and the NBA. First and foremost, let me clarify that my preference for watching European basketball does not diminish my respect for the NBA and its value. In this blog post, I aim to shed light on a few key topics that have been circulating recently.
The inspiration behind this post comes from an Instagram quote by Kyle Hines, a well-known figure in European basketball. The quote, which was taken out of context and sensationalized for clickbait purposes by a very popular Instagram page, suggested that “the NBA is checkers, and Europe is chess.” After reposting and tagging Kyle, he was kind enough to hit me up and we had a conversation about the quote and the ongoing debate between European hoops and NBA hoops. Here’s what he had to say:
When asked about the difference in styles between the NBA and Euroleague by the Instagram interview, Kyle actually explained that the NBA is characterized by a fast-paced, speed-based game resembling checkers. In contrast, Euroleague basketball is more methodical and slower-paced, akin to the strategic nature of chess. He emphasized that the NBA is undoubtedly the best league in the world, boasting exceptional talent. However, the contrasting styles make for an interesting debate, which is why it remains a hot topic.
I share Kyle’s sentiment. It is evident to me that each NBA team’s roster, from the first to the twelfth player, possesses more individual talent than the best Euroleague team. However, what draws me to the European game is the emphasis of passion, and team basketball. Unlike the NBA, where matchups are often prioritized, the Euroleague places a genuine focus on team-oriented basketball throughout the season. It is comparable to experiencing the excitement and intensity of March Madness on a full-season scale. Every game matters. Can that be said for the NBA?
In addition to my conversation with Kyle, I engaged in a discussion with a former Euroleague player who has also coached at both the European and NBA levels. This individual provided me with a unique perspective worth considering. Initially, he shared a similar viewpoint to the misconstrued quote by Kyle. However, after working as an assistant in the NBA, he gained a deeper understanding.
He acknowledged that factors such as the number of games, rule differences, and court sizes significantly impact gameplay. Yet, he stressed that the coaching, game preparation, tactics, and overall professionalism in the NBA are elite. Contrary to popular belief, he emphasized that the NBA is not what people assume. The talent level of the players is extraordinary, and they work tirelessly to hone their skills. However, it is essential to recognize that the NBA and European basketball encompass distinct cultures and games.
This brings me to the core point: the Euroleague and NBA are incomparable due to varying rule changes, schedules, coaching methods, and other factors. While it sparks a captivating debate, attempting a direct comparison is ultimately futile. My preference for the European game stems from my personal involvement as a player, coach, and resident in Europe. Had I played in the NBA, my perspective would undoubtedly differ. For instance, during a recent conversation with a current Euroleague player, I was borderline shocked by the level of preparation and practice undertaken by his team and coaching staff. It deviated from my initial expectations.
Euroleague teams play a maximum of 41 games per season, including regular season, playoff, and Final Four matches. Additionally, they may participate in around 34 country league games, Cup games, preseason, and friendly matches, potentially amounting to over 80 games. Naturally, their training methods differ from those of non-Euroleague teams that practice and prepare for games differently.
It’s worth noting that NBA players face an intense workload and extensive travel, factors that can affect their consistency and level of play, as mentioned by the aforementioned coach.
Finally, one’s preference for either the NBA or Euroleague does not equate to a lack of respect for the other. Personally, I hold a deep appreciation for the Euroleague and tend to prioritize it over the NBA, excluding the playoffs. However, this does not diminish my respect for the talented players in the NBA. I firmly believe that all basketball players, regardless of their level of compensation, share a deep love for the game. And that sentiment extends to many individuals involved in basketball.
Did I set the record straight?