For many basketball fans, the NBA is the premier basketball league in the world. However, many leagues around the world play at an elite level as proven by the fact that many players in the NBA are from different parts of the world.
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Of the 195 countries in the world, over 100 of them have their own basketball leagues or national team, with some teams participating in regional associations like the Euro League. With so many teams dotting the globe, it’s no surprise that there are an estimated 70,000+ professional basketball players in the world.
Here’s a closer look at a few basketball leagues from around the world:
EuroLeague — During the 2018-19 season, the Euro League had 16 teams from nine different countries including Turkey, Italy, Germany, Montenegro, Russia, Spain, Israel, Greece, and Lithuania. The teams play a total of 30 games each season.
At the end of the regular season, the top eight teams advance to the playoffs where they face off in a five-game series. The teams who emerge victorious from the playoff games face off in the Final Four. The winners of those semi-final matchups play in a championship game, while the losing teams play for third place. This year’s Final Four will be held on May 17th and 19th.
Jazz player Ricky Rubio played for FC Barcelona in 2010 when the team won the EuroLeague Championship.
Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) — Founded only 24 years ago, the Chinese Basketball Association has fed several players into the NBA like Yao Ming, Zhou Qi, and Wang Zhizhi. The CBA has also become a place where players have gone after their NBA careers have ended to continue playing the sport they love.
When the league first started in 1995, there were 12 teams. Now, the league boasts 20 teams in two divisions. Only seven current teams, the Bayi Rockets, Beijing Ducks, Guangdong Southern Tigers, Jiangsu Dragons, Liaoning Flying Leopards, Shandong Golden Stars, and the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, were part of the original 12 teams in 1995.
National Basketball League (Australia) — Since its establishment in 1979, Australia’s National Basketball League has had its share of ups and downs. While the league experienced immense success in the 1980s and 90s, attendance dropped soon after. However, recent years have seen the program revamped and, with it, a renewed interest. Today, this league is one of the most-watched in the world behind the NBA and the EuroLeague.
The National Basketball League, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year, has nine teams total, eight from Australia and one from New Zealand. Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles played for the South Dragons for three seasons, earning NBL Rookie of the Year honors in 2007 and helping the South Dragons to an NBL Championship in 2009.
These leagues are only a few of the many thriving leagues around the globe. From South Korea to Albania, from Kosovo to Mozambique, basketball is becoming a more popular sport around the world.
The impact of these leagues is becoming apparent in the NBA as well, as more and more foreign players are finding a home in the league. As basketball continues to grow around the world, we may see more and more international faces join NBA rosters in the future, representing not only their countries but the international leagues that helped them meet their potential.