Brandon Jennings. Josh Childress. Who Is Next?
I have discussed it as a guest on various radio shows, have thrown the idea back and forth among my colleagues, and have written about it on this blog: Will going overseas to play basketball become more of a common occurrence among some of basketball’s great players? When foreign born players decide to stay overseas after NBA teams have shown enough interest to select them in the NBA Draft (see: Fran Vasquez, Rudy Fernandez, Tiago Splitter, Goran Dragic, etc) and American born ballers give up NBA offer sheets that exceed thirty million dollars in favor of playing in Europe, I would have to say that cable companies better start negotiating with European television stations to air games from the top leagues.
For years, players who could not cut it in the NBA or NBDL decided to go overseas and collect a larger paycheck than if they were to try to make it with a Continental Basketball League (CBL) or International Basketball League (IBL), to name a few lower class American leagues. Now, many players consider the NBDL to be an afterthought. An athlete who can make it in the NBDL and does not mind relocating to a country across the Atlantic or Pacific ocean will often make a much larger salary, as long as the foreign team makes good on its contract. But who would have thought that players would start picking foreign leagues over an NBA career?
Brandon Jennings did not have much of a choice. He could not enter the NBA Draft, being that he had not yet been one year out of high school. He also did not have the requisite scores to enroll in The University of Arizona, even though coach Lute Olsen continues to cry foul about the whole situation. Jennings is a pioneer, though. He will be going overseas for a year and will tear apart the one-and-done rule if he succeeds in his short stint in Rome. If Jennings is a pioneer, then Josh Childress and to a lesser extent, Bostjan Nachbar, are revolutionaries.
Josh Childress has left the red and white of the Atlanta Hawks for the red and white of Olympiakos S.F.P. Pireus, also known as Olympiakos for short. He joins a team headlined by Yotam Halperin (a tremendous baller from Israel) and Papaloukas Theodoros from Greece. Olympiakos has made the Euroleague Quarterfinals for the past three years and are hoping that Childress will make the team more competitive, earning them a spot in the Euroleague Championship Game. Why not go from an Atlanta Hawks team that cannot get past the first round of the playoffs to an international team that constantly has itself in the running for the championship? Additionally, after taxes, Childress will make $20 million over three years and may opt out of the deal after any year. For a young guy, why not take the offer, play for a competitive team, and enjoy a few years of your life abroad?
“I’ve talked to a few guys, and it could become a trend,” Childress said on a conference call about other Americans following his lead. “I’m not so sure it won’t. It’s different. We thought out of the box a little on this one.”
And what about the strength of the Euro versus the American Dollar? That could lead more players to follow Josh Childress to foreign destinations. Darren Rovell thinks so, and also accurately notes that, the NBA is made up of Josh Childresses. LeBron James will not be wearing Maccabi Tel Aviv’s jersey any time soon, but I could definitely see a player like Ben Gordon getting upset with coming off the bench and going overseas for more money.