Have FIBA’s World Cup qualifier killed International Basketball?

International Basketball

Before the start of the season, we discussed FIBA’s well-intentioned, but possibly ill-advised international Basketball breaks. Now that the first of these new mid-season windows is upon us, it is as good a time as any to revisit the subject.

You may have noticed that there is no EuroCup action this week, but there is a full round of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. You will also see that the NBA continues in full swing this week. At the same time, we will be treated to international basketball around the world.

That’s because FIBA has designated mid-season breaks in November, February, and then an end-of-season window in July. Each of these is to debut a qualification system for the 2019 World Cup. Yes, it is very much like the qualification system employed in soccer. FIBA’s hope is it can rejuvenate the international basketball scene by bringing the big nations and big players to different parts of the world.

It is a noble effort, but as this first November break shows, the best players won’t be playing internationals hoops this week at all. They will be where they usually are, suiting up in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and the NBA.

In the summer, I highlighted how there is no real interest in the NBA or EuroLeague Basketball letting their players leave. All of these windows clash with the NBA, and two of them with EuroLeague. November and February are heavily scheduled in global Basketball’s two biggest leagues, while the NBA Free Agency is underway in July. It was believed both the NBA and EuroLeague would not bend for FIBA, meaning the best players in the world would be missing from the qualifying games.

EuroLeague Basketball also manages the EuroCup and was willing to open a window in that competition. It seems the EuroLeague itself was a step too far, while it is worth remembering the clubs (who pay the salaries) also have a say in whether their best players take a mid-season detour.

Back in September, it seemed as though there was a dialogue between the EuroLeague and FIBA. However, this week it is clear any negotiations have not moved fast enough to allow players from the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague to play this week. Perhaps February will be different, although the NBA ever bending to these windows seems unlikely.

So, we are at the stage where the best nations in global basketball will visit the lesser nations. That may be a spectacle for local fans, but they will not be treated to the best quality players. It is interesting that FIBA created this qualification model in hopes to spark excitement and save international basketball. Looking at the muddled system that has unfolded, the sport’s governing body may have just killed international basketball.

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