So you consider yourself a basketball fan. You say you know about all 30 NBA teams and can probably name most of the starters in each one. You have the names of all the MVPs of the last decade on your fingertips and can name the NBA Champion in any given year. You can correctly predict who’ll make the All Star team this season and which rookie is going to the surprise breakout.
With the 2012/13 NBA Season less than a week away, you’re ready to soak it all in once again.
Well my friends, it’s time to expand all of our horizons a little. There is a whole new exciting world of basketball outside the 30-team bubble of the NBA, and although it may not exactly match North America’s finest pro ball league in talent, it can certainly offer its own brand of excitement. Basketball leagues all around Europe – from Turkey, Italy, Greece, Argentina, France, Israel, Russia, to the massive EuroLeague – and the growing league in China, have all shown that the NBA isn’t the end-all for basketball’s best players anymore.
And as a gift of that basketball globalisation, Indian hoop fans have been presented with an alternative to the NBA by SET India, which has signed on a deal to broadcast the Liga Endesa – the top tier Men’s basketball league from Spain – on the Sony SIX channel in India for the next three years. More popularly known as the Liga ACB, the Endesa is the widely considered to be the strongest basketball league in the world behind the NBA, played in Spain which is currently standing second to only the USA in world basketball.
Excerpts from the report on SportsProMedia:
The deal expands the coverage of elite Spanish basketball in Asia, where Liga Endesa is also currently aired in China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. With the addition of India, where SET India is said to reach 42 million households, the league will now be shown in a total of 100 countries this season.
ACB chief executive Albert Agustí said the deal is:
“one of the biggest steps in the league’s expansion, because we are reaching a significant amount of potential viewers and working together with one of the biggest channels in its sector.
“This deal confirms ACB as the strongest basketball league in the world, after the NBA. Such deals are also very important in stimulating our work and commitment, especially in tough economic times such as these.”
So if you like 40 minute-games played in front of a football-style crowd inside a basketball arena, if you like a little more finesse and pace to your game, and if you’re more about the finger rolls than the slam dunks, if you enjoyed the Olympics or any other international basketball event, then this is all great news to you.
The Spanish basketball season already tipped off a couple of weeks ago and you may have already caught a glimpse of it if you’re lucky enough to get Sony SIX on your cable operator (few in India are!) If you are familiar with any football league in the world, the structure of the Endesa will make sense. In this 18-team league, each team plays 34 games in a season – one at home and one away against each opponent – but unlike football, the competition doesn’t end there. The top 8 teams in the league qualify for the playoffs, where they play best-of-3 in the quarter-finals and best-of-five in the semi-finals and Finals to determine the league’s champion.
You may be not too shocked to hear that – just like in Spanish football – the winner of the Spanish basketball league also came down to the familiar names of Real Madrid and Barcelona. In the 52 years in the history of the Liga Nacional which later became the ACB, Madrid and Barcelona have shared 47 titles (!!!) with Madrid winning 30 and Barcelona winning 17. In the 2012 Finals, Barcelona emerged champions defeating Madrid 3-2 after five gruelling games of basketball!
Real Madrid have started this season as favourites again and our so far tied with Valencia Basket at the top of the table as the only teams with a perfect record (4-0).
Reigning champions Barcelona return this season with last year’s ACB Finals MVP, the Slovenian Erazem Lorbek. Other familiar names on their roster include Brazilian star Marcelino Huertas, Lithuanian veteran Sarunas Jasikevicius, and the Spanish superstar Juan Carlos Navarro.
The Madrid side this season boasts of well-known Spanish basketball names like Rudy Fernandez, Felipe Reyes, and Sergio Llull, as well as the Montenegrin star Nikola Mirotic.
Apart from the two powerhouses, Valencia (with American Justin Doellman) and Caja Laboral (featuring Andres Nocioni) also have some good talent on their rosters. Another player to watch out for this year is Sergi Vidal of Unicaja Malaga. CB Canarias and Mad-Croc Fuenlabrada are the two teams promoted into the top league this season.
For the true basketball nerd, the addition of another world class league to Indian airwaves is just fantastic news. Spanish teams regularly do well in the EuroLeague competition and regularly feature big name players. The likes of Oscar Schmidt, Fran Vasquez, Arvydas Sabonis, Drazen Petrovic, Jorge Garbajosa, Luis Scola, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Tiago Splitter, Sergio Rodriguez, and Ricky Rubio have all passed through this competition. This is your chance to spot the next big thing…
… and accept that just like the shape of a basketball, the world of hoops also goes around, round and round.
To every side of the circle.