Hi Teammates! American basketball players, please heed this warning! Your reign as a dominant world player is over and I will explain why in a minute. The world has begun to catch up since the original Dream Team dominated. Just the other day, the Mexican men’s national team beat the USA for the first time in history. It just goes to show that when the USA does not use NBA players, those teams struggle internationally.

I won’t go into the reasons behind that except to say that one reason why national teams in other countries are competing and winning against Team USA now is because of sheer numbers. The USA has more good players, but other national teams do not, so their best players play together from the time they are kids in the national team systems whereas in America the teams change often. European teams, for example, have a basic core of players that stay together for up to 20 years and they know each other like the back of their hands.

That is not the point of this blog though. The rise of the EU player has begun to cut into the player market for a few reasons.

  1. The players are just getting better and because they grow up in Europe, they have a distinct advantage when it comes to how basketball is played over here. There is no time needed to adjust. If a good German youth player goes to another team in Germany, they already know how to play in the basic systems. They speak the language, they are not far from home, and they know how the league works since they have been watching games their whole life.
  2. Visa issues are becoming a HUGE factor. As a player, you probably have no understanding of how complicated visas are and the cost of obtaining one for a player from outside the EU. In short, it is a huge amount of work for a club. There are paperwork issues, and of course, money plays a role. For EU players, there are hardly any issues because having an EU passport allows you to work in any EU country without a problem. I have talked to a few agents who said they are being asked more about EU players than ever before…especially young ones. Think of it like this, if a team has two 22-year-olds to decide on, who are they likely to choose if they are equally talented? The American player just out of college that will need time to adjust and have to deal with visa issues and possibly homesickness, or the homegrown player with no visa issues and a relatively low homesickness risk? One thing remaining in the favor of Americans (if you want to call it that) is that typically, American salaries have dropped compared to the rise of European players…so to make the budget, American players will still be taken. European players have become more expensive because there are fewer of them that play at a high level in some countries. 
  3. I have spoken with a few European-based agents and a common thought in Europe is that American basketball is becoming more and more individualistic. There seems to be more focus on developing new trick moves, embarrassing opponents with slick crossovers, and less on moving without the ball or developing your basketball IQ which are qualities European coaches treasure. That is a turn-off for coaches out here. Averaging 25 per game is not the premium anymore. You can average crazy stats and still not get a job next season. Teams are paying more attention to details of American players, not just how many points they average. Teams are being much more selective which means those of you with weaker profiles will be hurt the most.

There are other reasons why the rise of the EU player hurts the American player. In short, the players are getting better, Visa issues are a pain in the neck for teams, and teams are becoming increasingly selective of the players they bring in.

You as a player can do nothing about the development of EU players or the Visa issues. What you can do is strengthen your profile as much as possible. If you do get selected for a team, then you have to show that you deserve to be there. Put in the work, be respectful, and be likable.

2 Responses

  1. Hey Sean Great article, I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments. I believe that it’s a crying shame that players like Giannis and Jokic are constantly marginalized for not having “skill” in the eyes of the American media. The American media is so infatuated with the ball dominate Lebron James archetype that any system preferring ball movement or excellent interior post play is considered archaic or old school. America May have better players individually but basketball is a team game just like life everyone has a roll and everyone can’t be a “superstar” to be successful.

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