Rubio's choice speaks to growing appeal of European basketball
There were many factors involved in
Speaking generally, though, the story is not exactly novel. After all, agents have been trying to fleece GMs and owners since time immemorial, or at least 1972, just as young, talented athletes have been prone to acts of hubris ever since there have been young, talented athletes. And likewise, most right-thinking humans learned long ago that it's best to avoid Minnesota in the winter, especially when the alternative is someplace like Barcelona.
No, what is more interesting here is the larger theme: the devaluation of the NBA experience. Think about it: Ten years ago, can you imagine a Spanish point guard being chosen as a lottery pick and
Contrast that with Rubio's reaction -- Minnesota? Um, no thanks -- and you'll get the point: The NBA has become an option, not just the destination.
Now, before anyone at the NBA (perhaps the ever-affable
In the past, NBA players went overseas for one of two reasons: because they couldn't get an NBA job or because they wanted money/leverage. So
More recently, however, American players have rejected entirely respectable NBA offers to head overseas and have found the competition to be surprisingly competitive. Last year, Hawks forward
That said, Childress enjoyed the culture of living abroad, the camaraderie with his teammates and the ardor of the fans, so diehard that he had a hard time going out to eat without a swarm of true believers converging -- not to ask for autographs, as in America, but to offer advice and talk about the team. "The mind-set of our fans is that they are a part of the team," Childress said. "There is no Olympiakos team and Olympiakos fans, we are all together." Can you say that about Hawks fans?
So, despite the negatives -- the tough practices, limited PT and the at-times unruly road crowds -- Childress opted to stay in Greece rather than return to the NBA this season. This summer, he was joined on Olympiakos by Rockets guard
Foreign-born players, theoretically those most excited to come to the States, are also becoming ever-more picky.
So while it's hard to defend Rubio's actions from a professional standpoint -- he said he wanted to come to the NBA, then changed his mind after he was drafted when he should have done so before -- it's not so hard from a personal one. He'll be making plenty of money, playing against good competition, burnishing his reputation and living in his native country, among friends and family. He can still come to the NBA in two years, or four or six. Or, if he so chooses, never.
Granted, at the moment that seems an unlikely outcome. One has to wonder, though, whether that will remain the case.