Since the beginning of time, overseas professional baseball, basketball and football leagues have been the last refuge for aging stars, an alternative recruiting source and sometimes a proving ground for marginal talent. Is that all about to change?
Over the past year we've seen something in the NBA we've never seen before. European players who could actually play in the NBA are choosing to go back to European leagues. While it's a new development, it's not completely shocking. The NBA culture has to be shocking for many of these guys. These guys are in a strange country, immersed in a culture they may not understand, may not want to understand, and for the most part, they aren't the heroes and stars they were in Europe. Not to mention the weakening dollar. It's to be expected that some imports would go back to the place where they were wildly successful, to a culture they're comfortable with for equal or even better money.
What hasn't happened yet, is an American player who can hack it in the NBA jumping ship and playing in Europe. Josh Childress could break that barrier. According to reports, Childress is weighing a 3 year, $20 million offer
from Olympiakos, a Greek team.
Now, Childress is in a precarious position in the NBA. He's a restricted free agent and most of the teams with available cap space have already spent it. Realistically, the Hawks and the Grizzlies are probably the only teams who could offer a comparable monetary offer to Olympiakos, the Grizzlies won't spend the cash and the Hawks may have bigger fish to fry (like re-signing Josh Smith). If Childress's main concern is the largest paycheck, going to Europe could be his best bet. Here's the thing, though. If the euro leagues become a viable alternative to the NBA for NBA players, how slippery of a slope will it become.
Think about it. We love to think guys care about winning more than money, but a lot of the time, that just isn't the case. In baseball and basketball, players have been loathe to sign with a Canadian franchise due to the tax rate and the relative weakness of the loonie. Nothing to do with winning, purely financial. The converse is also true, when you hear about the premier free agent locations in the NBA you hear the obvious giant markets, Los Angeles and New York, and then the Florida teams for tax reasons. Again, it comes down to money.
It seems like a natural progression, and if it happens there will be plenty of blame to go around. The arcane rules of the CBA, the dropping value of the dollar, the explosion of the international game, Team USA's pitiful Olympic performances. Europe is no longer inching toward being a viable alternative, it's banging on the door. If Childress doesn't go to Greece, someone else eventually will.