International basketball has never been better than it is today. Forty or fifty years ago, the United States was the only true power in the basketball world. However, that has changed as the game has grown, spreading to more and more countries than ever before. This is particularly true in the men’s game, but the women’s game is slowly catching up. Here we are going to take a look at five of the biggest basketball tournaments in the world today:
- FIBA World Cup– FIBA is the world’s governing body for basketball. Most people would have heard of FIFA, soccer’s governing body: FIBA would be its equivalent. Every four years, teams from around the world are brought together to compete for the crown of World Champions. Each team that makes it to the competition, except the host, is required to qualify. Both men and women compete in this competition, but they are held at two different venues. The World Cup is prestigious because it gives teams the chance to show just how good they are. It’s special to just make the event, as it is a long road to qualification. Once there, teams get the opportunity to take the world by storm. Players get a chance to impress club teams from all over the world and to improve their positions. Many people watch the FIBA World cup from all over the world, but it has still yet to take off in the United States (for obvious reasons that we will talk about below).
- National Basketball Association– The NBA is seen in America as the premier basketball competition in the world due to this its level of competition. There are playoffs at the end of an 82 game season that taxes players and coaches alike. They are contested in a best of seven format, held between 16 teams. After all of that is said and done, the winner usually is referred to in America and Canada as the “world champions.” However, people from outside North America don’t always think this. The NBA is undoubtedly the league that pays it players the most money and the league that all players want to go to. Many players have been scouted and signed to the NBA because of their play in the World Cup or other international competitions. The NBA has grown larger and larger, and it is making a footprint in just about every nation that loves and plays basketball by signing its best players. There is also a women’s league, called the WNBA, that is also very successful. This league isn’t nearly as popular as the NBA, however, and its season runs at a different time.
- Olympic Basketball Tournament– the Olympics are very well-known throughout the world due to the various sports which are played. Both men’s and women’s basketball is present at the Olympics (although the American women have very little competition). In America, the Olympics are the most recognized international event, not the FIBA World Cup. Slowly, this is becoming the trend around the world. The Olympics are a big deal in terms of basketball because of the marker that was laid down by the American Dream Team when professionals first became eligible to play. After the Dream Team, everyone wanted to be a part of the Olympics and to play against some of the best competition from all over the world. As time has passed, there have been many nations rise up to challenge American dominance. Chief among them have been Spain and Argentina. Australia has also become a player in international basketball, as it currently fields a number players in the NBA. One of them plays for one of the perennial favorites, the San Antonio Spurs. The Olympics are contested by only twelve teams. Those teams are divided into two groups of six. The top four from each advance to the playoff rounds. The two teams that go through the playoffs unbeaten square off for the Gold Medal while the two teams that lost in the semi-finals meet for the Bronze Medal.
- EuroLeague– the EuroLeague is essentially the basketball version of the UEFA Champions League, a very prestigious soccer competition contested between teams from various European nations. Much like its soccer counterparts, the EuroLeague is also made up of teams from various countries. In order to qualify for the EuroLeague, teams usually have to win their national basketball championship. For example, Barcelona would have to win the Spanish League title to play. This means that only the best teams, or the teams that were the best in the previous season, will make the tournament. This provides fans a great opportunity to see contrasting styles meeting one another, and it is also great practice for the players as they prepare for potentially going to the Olympics or FIBA World Cup. Each season, 16 teams take part in the tournament to determine who is Europe’s best basketball team. The format sees every team play the other in a home and away format. The top eight in the standings will then qualify for the next round. Based on their seeding (how they finished) in the group stage, they are placed into the knockout rounds. The best team will face the eighth best team, the second best the seventh best, and so on. Each winner will advance until there is only one team remaining. The EuroLeague is seen, in Europe, as a rival to the NBA. It is seen as the way for the top European teams and talent to remain tested by better competition. While it is still not seen as anything close to the level of the NBA, it is making its name in America slowly.
With the NBA expanding more and more, the whole basketball world could be changed over the next few years. In the past there has been talk of a super league where the NBA would play other European teams, but it’s hard to see that happening, as it looks like the NBA is just determined to sign all of the top talent. Each of these tournaments is huge and very important to win, and they’ve all got their own little niche group to look out for.