Headline International Basketball

Follow up on NBA D-League vs. European Basketball: Why don’t more players go to Europe?

The following article is a guest contribution by Benjamin Haynes, Esq.   Haynes is a former Division 1 Basketball Player at Oral Roberts University and currently practices law in the State of Florida.

In this follow up article (click here to read the original article), I interviewed three professional basketball players in order to provide direct perspective on the NBA D-league as compared to European and other overseas basketball. The following interviewees have either spent time in the NBA, are in the NBA D-league, or have spent substantial time in the D-league. Further, all three have also spent time overseas. Combined, the three players have played in a total of 5 NCAA tournaments, as well as receiving NBA D-league all-star accolades.First player: Moses Ehambe. Moses is a 6’6 shooting guard who is currently playing in the NBA D-league for the Iowa Energy. Ehambe was chosen to play in the NBA D-league all-star game this past season and I witnessed him first hand filling up the net scoring 24 points in the game. Moses was overseas for a few months, but other than that he has been playing in the D-league since he graduated from Oral Roberts in 2008. Ehambe has had a great D-league career thus far, averaging a total of 14.5 PPG in his 4 years of play. He has played on a couple NBA Summer League teams during the off-season as well. I asked Moses a few questions about why he has chosen to stay in the United States.

Me: Moe, what are the main reasons why you have decided to stay in the D-league instead of pursuing a career over in Europe?

Moses: Opportunity, experience, and being right around the NBA. You are so close to the NBA when you play in the D-league. You have to ask the question, is it more important to take a pay cut and be closer to your dream? Also being where the Lord wants me to be is extremely important to my wife and me.

Me: If you didn’t have a wife and two beautiful twin girls, would you be more open to heading to Europe?

Moses: Yes, of course. But being that I have these girls and my wife, I have to be the provider for them. It is tough because I know I am taking a pay cut to stay here, but I feel like it is best that we are here for now.

Me: Does the thought ever cross your mind that you could be making more money in Europe?Moses: Heck Yes! But when that thought crosses my mind there is always something in the back of my head telling me to hold on for one more year. Whatever I do, I want to give God glory and I believe this is where he wants me to be for the time being.

Second player: Marcus Lewis: Marcus is a 6’9 power forward who has spent his professional career in the NBA D-league to date. Marcus is an extremely smart basketball player, and was also named to the NBA D-league all-star game this past season. Further, Marcus averaged 15.1 PPG and 13 Rebounds per game last season. Lewis has just recently signed a contract in Spain. He has also played in a couple NBA Summer Leagues during the off-season.

Me: Marcus, what made you finally decide to take an overseas contract and leave the NBA D-league?

Marcus: Of course I wanted to experience the overseas life. I felt that this was a great opportunity for me. And I felt like I didn’t have anything left to prove in the D-league after the great season I had last year. Plus, the money overseas is much better. I talked to my family, and my agent, and felt that this was the best move for me.

Me: If you had a wife and kids, like your former teammate Moses Ehambe, would that sway you to staying in the D-league instead of jumping overseas?

Marcus: For me, it would make me want to go overseas more. If you are the provider for your family, the money is better, and I would definitely go for the money. My mom grew up abroad in France and Germany and said it was a great experience. So I would want that experience for my family as well.

Me: What are you going to miss most about the D-league, and what are you most looking forward to about heading to Spain?Marcus: Knowing that any day you can get called up to the NBA is what I will miss most. Having the opportunity of being one step away from the NBA is great. I will also miss living in America.

Larry Owens

Third player: Larry Owens: Larry is a 6’8 long athletic wing player. Larry is extremely gifted, being that he can knock down a three pointer, but at the same time can take certain defenders on the block. Larry has been in the D-league for three years, spending that time with the Tulsa 66ers. However, Larry has been called up on several 10-day contracts that have landed him jobs with the San Antonio Spurs, New Jersey Nets, and also the Washington Wizards. He has played a total of 19 games in the NBA. Larry has spent time overseas as well. So he has spent time in all three arenas – the NBA, NBA D-league, and Europe.

Me: You have played both overseas and in America. Tell me why you chose to come back and play in America.

Larry: Mainly because I could get to the NBA faster, because you will have NBA scouts at all of your games. I figured it would be faster and easier to get noticed.

Me: You have been called up on several NBA 10-day contracts. Is it disheartening once those 10-days are up and they don’t re-sign you? Is it mentally hard to go back down to the D-league and prepare yourself to play?

Larry: It’s very disappointing. After my time with the Spurs, I felt like I didn’t do enough for them. But then you have to get over that disappointment and get back at it and be a professional.

Me: I definitely believe you will stick on an NBA roster once you find the right system. Do you ever think about heading back overseas?

Larry: I have sacrificed 3 years of a pay cut to stay here, so I would like to see what happens here, but I am not opposed to going overseas and playing if I have to.

Me: I know that you have children, does that keep you from wanting to head back to Europe?

Larry: No, because they are young so they could go with me. So it’s not really an issue.

It is very interesting to see the three different perspectives. All three of the basketball players feel that they have sacrificed time and money in order to chase their dream of being in the NBA. They feel that the opportunity for them to get noticed if they go overseas is severally diminished, but the dilemma remains – the money overseas is always in the back of their mind. These three guys are all outstanding basketball players who could very easily find permanent gigs in the NBA. Getting thrown into the right system is a key element to staying put in the NBA.

I appreciate the time of all three of my former college basketball teammates at ORU.  I hope that all three get the call up to the NBA and stay there as long as possible.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.