In one of the more shocking moves of the NBA offseason, Deron Williams, the newly acquired star point guard for the New Jersey Nets has agreed to play in Turkey during the NBA lockout.
The news of Williams’s agreement was first reported by a Turkish television station, NTV Spor. ESPN has since confirmed the reports to be true. The New York Times reported a statement from the coach of the Turkish team Besiktas Ergin Ataman, in a telephone interview saying the contract with Williams had been confirmed and that it would become official in the next 24 hours, with press conference with the team president and Williams to follow next week.
Unless Williams had a huge bet on the Miami Heat to win the NBA Finals, he certainly doesn’t need the extra cash flow. Williams is one of the premier point guards in the NBA both in ability and salary. Certainly, the press conference will shed more light on Williams’ decision to play overseas. Perhaps when he went to England for the NBA showcase games, he got a taste of how good life could be outside the borders of the U.S.
Concerning the gaming industry, this decision is worrisome, because it’s not likely that one of the star point guards in the NBA would head overseas to play unless he was sensing that this lockout isn’t going to end anytime soon. Why would Williams risk injury playing overseas with training camp a few months away? Perhaps Williams knows that there isn’t going to be any training camp?
Perhaps Williams knows there isn’t going to be any preseason? Let’s hope that’s not the case.
The question is, will other players follow Williams lead? The game of basketball is wholly global, there are other leagues in Spain, Turkey, Italy, Germany and even Greece and other parts of Asia where the competition is elite, perhaps not as elite as the NBA, but the star players get paid handsomely. If this lockout drags on, it wouldn’t surprise me to see other players, heading overseas to play. North American basketball stars coming out of high-school have already been lured overseas in the past, that trend is likely to continue particularly if more NBA caliber players jump ship.
It’s a comfy life of playing basketball and traveling to foreign countries that the NBA is competing with, and while it may not lose it’s marquee players, what about the role players with popular names who could be superstars overseas?
When David Stern grew the NBA into a globally accepted game, he also grew his competition.
Consider this scenario: If there’s no NBA being played and people want to see basketball, all it takes is for a few teams overseas with known NBA players to attract TV contracts to show overseas basketball games in the US and North America, then what?
There are those who will say the European brand of basketball is more predicated on skill and fundamentals than it is on athletic ability, that’s a widely accepted opinion. If you add athletic NBA players to that mix, you have yourself a very watchable and exciting product.
The other thing that David Stern and the rest of the NBA owners need to consider is that this is not the NFL. The NBA players will not starve or have nowhere to play the longer the lockout lasts. Most players in the NBA can take a year off and go and play overseas almost anywhere and be paid quite well to do it.
Who will be the next player to jump ship?