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U.S.A. Dominates World Basketball

For many years, basketball has been one of the most famous sports in the United States. Since the early 1900's, united states basketball league became the first professional league in the world. Founded by James Naismith, who is also American, basketball started to earn a lot of attention from the public since the beginning of its existence. There are many schools and college starts to use basketball as their one of their athletic program. The college athletic organization in United States was called National Collegiate Athletic Association. It was formed in 1905 with the name Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS), before changing name in 1910. The first colleges that sponsoring the games were the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, the University of Minnesota, the U.S. Naval Academy, the University of Utah and Yale University. During this time, there were no countries played basketball yet except for United States and Canada.

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James Naismith, the founder of basketball game, created the game in order to make his students stay healthy during winter. He created the game by putting up a basket that is tied with a board on the wall. The basket was 10 feet or 3.05 meters tall. To score some points, the ball will have to get in to the basket. Teams with the highest points win the game. At that time, each team had 9 people on the court. The rules were changed in 1897 that only allows 5 people from each team playing on the court at the same time.

In the 1940's, United States established the Basketball Association of America (BAA). This league then became the first professional league in the United States after merged with another league called National Basketball League (NBL) to form National Basketball Association. Soon after that, the American Basketball Association (ABA), another professional league in the United States, was established. Both league earned a lot of attention from basketball fans and produces great players. It is in 1976 that both league starts to think that it is better if there is only one professional league in the United States, so they decide to do a merger. The name that is used to presents the merger is NBA (National Basketball Association), the same name with one of the leagues had before.

Americans has the advantage of playing basketball because of their size, which actually can become the advantage in any kind of sports. George Mikan, the early 50's basketball player, was the first player that can do slam dunk. He is almost 7 feet tall. Other tall players in the early 50's that used to do dunks are Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. At that time, both Wilt and Bill were dominating the league in scoring and rebounding. Once during his career, Wilt Chamberlain even scored 100 points by himself and ended up winning against their opponents. After his retiring from basketball, he was listed as a Hall of Fame and also named as one of the 50 greatest players in the history of NBA.

Young American athletes developed their skills in sports by joining the Amateur Athlete Union (AAU). This organization was a non-profit organization that was established in 1888 in order to help the young Americans from the age of 14-18 years old to be a professional. In other words, this is a stepping stone for them. That is why American athletes can develop their skills in every sports well.

Great American basketball players achieved greatness through inner determination and a drive to succeed. This drive and determination led to hours of practice time mastering new skills. All the great players are notorious for their work ethic.

"Talent is never enough. With few exceptions, the best players are the hardest workers" (Magic Johnson).

Larry Bird was known for his summer workouts, shooting thousands of shots every day during the summer. Michael Jordan was known for working on a weakness every off-season, perfecting a new skill and entering the next season with something new he did not possess the prior season.

Now, this dedication to fundamentals and the great American work ethic have been usurped by the Europeans to such a degree that fundamentally sound basketball is now "European basketball," and it is someone like Peja Stojakovic who quipped that his shooting prowess was due to taking thousands of shots a day in his teenage years.

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While European players perfect their shooting strokes and master new moves, American players are caught in a fight for scholarships and mythical club championships leading them to games and tournaments throughout the country. The high school season, in many ways, is irrelevant. Great players only rarely match-up against or play with other great players, so the competition is minimal from game to game and great players compile obscene statistics.

In an article about the Spanish Federation's Youth Basketball Program, Carlos Sergio describes the use of Player Development Centers for players ages 14-18. The Spanish system starts with summer camps for 10-14 year olds where coaches teach and evaluate potential prospects, which they watch throughout the year with their teams. Certain individuals are selected to join the Player Development Centers where "The goal is to help basketball players between 14 and 18 years of age train in the most efficient way so basketball is compatible with their studies and personal development," (Sergio, 19).

Is that the mission of a typical AAU program? To train 14-18 year old players in the efficient way so players have a life outside the court as well? How does the "summer circuit" fit into a model of efficient development?

One key component of the Centers is its emphasis on "long-term training." In Brian Grasso's book Training Young Athletes, he emphasizes "long-term athletic development." In England, sports centers emphasize the long-term athlete development. However, in the United States, coaches focus on now; a freshman coach wants to win all his games; a junior varsity coach all his games and a varsity coach all his games; an AAU coach is judged by how many tournaments he wins. Everything is immediate and based solely on winning percentages. Little thought is given to long-term development. We live in a fast food society driven by immediate results; but, should fourteen year olds be treated like mini-professional athletes and coaches of fourteen year olds judged as harshly as NBA or WNBA coaches?

The Centers focus on three aspects of development "physical, psychological and technical-tactical," (Sergio, 20).

How many high school programs truly focus on development beyond the basketball court? Some basketball coaches using plyometrics without any knowledge of what they are doing or how they might be harming their athletes; plyometrics is just a buzz word and so they use these exercises seem cutting edge. Again, few programs utilize periodized strength and conditioning programs with long-term athletic development as its goal.

"players are taught simple movements and situations and then move up to situations that are more complex," (Sergio, 20).

How many programs, in a rush to prepare for the first game, focus large quantities of time on simple movements before implementing their full court press or half court set offense?

"we think this part of the program [small-sided games working on collective fundamentals] is an essential step that allows the player to learn how to play together with his teammates and develop his strategic intelligence," (Sergio, 20).

Small-sided games are essential to development, as they allow players more time with the ball in a competitive environment. Too many practices go straight from drills to five-on-five play without training the new skills with competition and more repetitions.

These Centers provide an excellent model of a development program, but American coaches have to commit to long-term development before anything resembling these centers would work in the United States. As long as parents, coaches and players are fixated at earning college scholarships through playing as many games as possible, as opposed to improving one's game, these programs will face an uphill battle. However, as a means to develop players' ability in a sane environment tat is compatible with academic and social development, this model is far superior to the current out of control high school athletic experience which now dominates American basketball.

United States has become the World Champions in many times. They really dominate world basketball. They always stand on the podium in every championship such as the Olympics and FIBA World Championship. Even once during 1992 Olympic Games, United States basketball team won the gold medal with a score margin ratio over 30 points a game. It means they always beat their opponents with at least 30 points margin. That is why this team is called a dream team. Many of them were listed in the 50 greatest players in NBA history such as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, etc. The opponents mental can drop before the game started by just hearing the names. In fact, the dream team never practices seriously to prepare for the Olympic Games, but they still can bring home the gold medals.

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Athletes that are playing in the United States pro league were always considered as a superstar. Since the existence of the NBA and ABA, United States always produces great players. They come from different parts of the country. In the early 1950's for example, there are two notable players that raises their name through NBA. They are Bob Cousy, the highly skilled point guard with tremendous ball handling ability, and George Mikan, the big man with a smooth touch and also become the first player in history that used to do slam dunk during a game. They both were a very famous player at that time. Bob Cousy, had led the Boston Celtics to reach 8 championships during his career. It's the most championship titles that a player had achieved until now. The names Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell came in the next generation. Both are great players, as I stated before in the article. They were big rivals to each other. It is no doubt that the NBA's popularity raises a lot because both of them playing at the same era. People were very excited to see both of them met each other in a game. The next generation of United States basketball then produces an unforgettable player called Dr. J. Born with the name Julius Erving, people then starts to call him with a nick name Dr. J soon after they saw him playing in ABA. He is always remembered as a legend because many players on the next generation took him as a role model. His game brought the new sensation of basketball. He is the first man that has the ability to jump from the free throw line. He is also listed as the 50 greatest players in the history of NBA.

The level of rivalry in the NBA is also very competitive. There is no one that can always dominating each game every time they play. All athletes are always practicing hard every day in order to win every night. The best rivalry ever in the NBA came from two different players that have big names. This rivalry was between Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Larry Bird. They were competing each other since they played basketball in college, when Magic's team beat Larry's team. Larry, who played for Indiana University suffered a lost from Michigan State University that led by Magic. The two of them then continue their rivalry until they were in the NBA. Magic Johnson joined the LA Lakers while Larry Bird joined Boston Celtics. These two legends were always tried to beat each other every time they went on the same game. Both of them are in the same size, which is 6"9 tall (2.06 m), same ability of leadership, top scorers on their team, have a tremendous playmaking skills, and both of them were always become MVP candidates. For some people, they think that magic was better than Larry, but some also think that Larry is the better one. There will be so many arguments if people are talking about these two players. Both of them know how it feels to win the NBA title, which Magic had won 5 times with the Lakers and Larry had won 3 times with the Celtics.

Larry Bird made an immediate impact on his first year in NBA. After going to the NBA in 1979, he signed a $650,000 contract with the Boston Celtics, making him at the time the highest-paid rookie in the history of the NBA. Just a season before Larry entered the league, the Boston Celtics record was 29 wins and 53 losses. A season after, their record become 61 wins and 21 losses, posting the league's best regular season record. In 1980, he won the rookie if the year award despite a strong rookie season from his collegiate rival, Magic Johnson. In the same year, he was voted onto the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Larry never missed any all star game in his career and always ended up in the roster for 12 straight years. In his second year in the NBA, he led the Celtics to the playoffs, where they play against the Philadelphia 76ers led by the legendary Julius Erving. The Celtics won 3-1, winning the last three games by 2, 2, and 1 point margins. This win led them to the finals where they defeated the Houston rockets in six games with bird averaging 15.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. It would be the first of three championships in Bird's career, as well as the first of his five Finals appearances.

While Larry Bird's achieved his first Championship in the Second year, Magic Johnson had led the Lakers to win the NBA championship since his first year in the NBA. Becoming the first draft pick in the 1979 NBA draft, he was considered as one of the best point guard in the world. His actual size, which is 6"9 tall (2.06m) and 255lbs weight, is too big for a point guard. People at his size are supposed to play on the paint, crashing the boards, and do block shot rather than dribbling the ball, do passing, shooting from outside the three point line, and making strategies. His skills in delivering the ball are no doubt as the best that the league has ever seen. He often do no-look pass to the teammates, making the defender confused on what he is going to do. In 1980's NBA final, he faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers who were led by forward Julius Erving. The Lakers took a 3-2 lead in the series, but unfortunately their main center and also the top scorers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, sprained his ankle in game five and did not play for the rest of the series. This situation forced Magic to play as an all round players by becoming point guard, forward, and center at the same time. In spite of missing their top scorers, the Lakers won the series while Magic scoring 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals. Magic then named the MVP of the series and became the first rookie to win the NBA Finals MVP Award and also became the first player in history that won the NBA championship title after winning the NCAA championship the year before.

After talking about great players, NBA has one name that is considered by many people as the greatest player ever. This man called Michael Jordan. He was remembered by people because of his vertical leap ability, fade-away jump shots, and consistency. Early in his career, he stated that Julius Erving, another great player, has become his role model that makes him so successful. He comes from Laney High School in North Carolina. He used to be on the team roster for the high school basketball team. But his career wasn't very smooth at that time. At his sophomore season, he was cut from the basketball team because of some reasons. One of the reasons was because he is not tall enough. He was only 5"7 (172cm) at that time. Despite feeling depressed because of the circumstances, he starts to practice even harder. He wakes up early in the morning everyday just to improve his skills. A few months later, the coach called him back to play on the team. Not only that, when he was graduating from high school, he decided to go to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Many people said that he wasn't good enough to play on that level, especially because the level of competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference is very high and dominating the whole country. He chooses to go there without any doubt. He believes in himself that he can be a good player and compete at that high level of competition. Later on, people found that his word was right. In his freshman year, he averaged 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. He even brought the North Carolina Tar Heels to reach national championship title. Michael Jordan then chooses to leave college for entering the NBA draft after finishing his junior season with the Tar Heels. His jersey was retired in Chapel Hill. In the draft, he was the 5th pick made by the Chicago Bulls. He directly made an impact in his first year as a rookie with the Chicago bulls while averaging 27.2 points per game. In 1989, he won the Slam Dunk contest by attracted people with the Airwalk Dunk. That's why people called him with a nickname Air Jordan.

US Basketball keep dominating the world of basketball since the professional player are allowed to play in 1989, but they fell to keep dominating after the era of the dream team. World basketball started to have the same level of competition. Teams from all over the world, especially Europe, started to develop so fast. European countries such as Spain, France, Serbia, Russia, Italy, and Lithuania became threats for the United States to keep their dominance. People no longer think that US Basketball can dominate because they lost in several championships in 1998-2006. Manu Ginoblili, an Argentinean guard currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs, rated the United States as one of the favorites to win the FIBA World Championship in 2006, but he said that the days of team USA's dominance are only "part of the past". He believes that the gap in the talent between United States basketball and the rest of the world is gradually diminishing. "I don't think you're ever going to see again a United States team that beats everyone else by a big margin. That was 15 years ago or whenever it was. Now basketball has changed and many of us are playing with them (in the NBA) every single day so we're getting closer," said the San Antonio Spurs guard. Even though Americans are very good at this sport, they still have to compete with other countries that also have a good team. Names like Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony will always become the center of attention to the opponents that they are going to face but basketball is about team, it's not just about players. As for his own team, Ginobili is confident that Argentina is hitting form at just the right time as it seeks to win its first World Championship since a triumph at the inaugural tournament in 1950. There were Andres Nocioni ( Chicago Bulls), Luis Scola (Houston Rockets), Fabricio Oberto(San Antonio Spurs), and Carlos Delfino(Golden State Warriors) joining Ginobili in the Argentina team . These players made Ginobili became more confident when competing in the Championship due to their experience of playing in the NBA. Unfortunately, the team suffered a terrible loss against the Spain in the Semifinal. The Spain team then brought home their first world title in the competition after beating the Greece 70-47. The Spanish center, Pau Gasol, was named as the tournament MVP despite suffering from an injury during the game. Gasol, their superstar power forward who led the team in scoring and rebounding as they went undefeated in the build-up to the FIBA World Championship and the tournament itself, suffered a partial fracture of his fifth metatarsal in his left foot. He did not played in the final game. The Spanish then got the inspirational efforts from Jorge Garbajosa, Juan Carlos Navarro, captain Carlos Jiminez, Felipe Reyes, and Marc Gasol, Pau's 21-year-old brother, and rolled to victory.

Players from Europe start to make their own name in the NBA since the arrival of Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Vlade Divac, etc. Their skills are equal with the Americans. European basketball players have some characteristic that differ them from the American. First, they tend to be less athletic compared with the American athletes such as Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Ben Wallace, who has a ripped muscle. Instead of training their muscle, they more prefer to improve their skills. For example, we can see players from Europe such as Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro, Andrea Bargnani, Hedo Turkoglu, Mehmet Okur, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, etc. They looked less athletic from the outside, but their skills, speed, shooting, and fundamentals are equal to Americans. Players like Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash (who came from Canada) even can dominate the game. Dirk Nowitzki, the 7'0 tall power forward, was doubted by the public because of his lack of athleticism and was projected by some experts that he will not have a good NBA career. They were all wrong until Dirk made an impact on the league. A few years after entering the league, he became a NBA regular MVP. The same thing happened to the 27 year old point guard currently play as a starter at San Antonio Spurs, Tony Parker. He was well known of his lightning speed and the teardrop shots, although at first he was doubted by the experts. He alongside with one of the best power forward in the country, Tim Duncan, led the San Antonio Spurs had won 3 NBA title. In 2006, he earned the NBA finals MVP, which some people thought that the title will goes to Duncan. Another doubted point guard, and two times NBA regular season MVP Steve Nash also made an impact in the NBA. He had a slow starts during his first 2 season in the league while playing for the Dallas Mavericks. He was only a reserve point guard because at that time he was playing alongside with the legendary point guard Jason Kidd. He averaged 7.7 points a game in his first season and began to rise on the next season by averaging 14 points per game. He said that he learned a lot from Jason and imitating some of his such as the no look pass. After few years playing with Jason Kidd, he finally found his true identity as a starting point guard at the Phoenix Suns. He directly led the Suns in scoring and assists. Steve Nash was also known as a three point shot expert and was participated in the three point shootout contest in the all-star game.

The strong impact from European players comes from the Euroleague. The Euroleague also known as Euroleague Basketball is the highest level and most important professional basketball competition in Europe, with teams from up to 18 different European countries. The competition is operated by ULEB, a Europe-wide consortium of leading professional basketball leagues. Clubs from Israel, entirely within Asia, are also part of the system. The league usually, but not always, includes domestic champions from the leading countries. Depending on the country, places in the Euroleague may be awarded on the basis of:

  • Performance in the previous season's domestic league.
  • Performance over the previous two or three domestic seasons.
  • Contracts with ULEB.
  • In addition, the winner of the previous season's Eurocup receives a place.

For example, two 2007-2008 domestic champions from ULEB member countries did not compete in the 2008-2009 Euroleague-Zadar (Croatia) and Hapoel Holon (Israel). Zadar played in the second-level Eurocup in 2008-2009. Hapoel Holon, however, did not compete in any of the three European continental club competitions-not even the third-tier EuroChallenge (which is run by FIBA Europe instead o ULEB).

Starting with the 2009-10 season, the entrance criteria have changed:

  • Thirteen clubs, chosen via a formula based on competitive performance, television revenues, and home attendance, receive "A Licenses", giving them automatic entry into the Euroleague Regular Season phase. A Licenses are awarded for three years, meaning that the next adjustment of A Licenses will not take place until 2012-13.
  • Eight clubs receive one-year "B Licenses" into the Euroleague Regular Season. Seven of them are directly based on the ranking of the domestic league in which the club competes. The eighth is a three-year "wildcard" license based on similar factors to the A Licenses; the first such license was awarded to ASVEL Basket of France.
  • The winner of the previous year's Eurocup receives a one-year "C License" into the Euroleague Regular Season. If the club qualifies for a direct B License into the Regular Season via its domestic league, the C License will be awarded to the club not already qualified for the Regular Season that is highest on the Euroleague entry list.
  • Eight other clubs receive one-year "B Licenses" into the Euroleague qualifying rounds, with two advancing into the Regular Season.

After falling a few times, US basketball keeps dominating at last. This was proved during the Olympic games when the US team earned the gold medal honor. Twelve best basketball player in US joined the team including Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant, Michael Redd, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Tayshaun Prince, and Dwight Howard. It is different with the Olympic games 1992 at Barcelona when the dream team won the gold medal honor without any serious preparation, the 2008 US basketball team which also called "Redeem Team" by most people, trained hard and prepared seriously because they want to prove to the world that US basketball is still dominating the world basketball. They were also motivated by the previous championships where they fall from other countries such as Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Greece. The redeem team proved their dominance since the beginning of the championship by beating all of their opponents by 20 points margin or above except for Australia in the group elimination game.

The team Australia then showed a little bit of arrogance after falling short from the US team, especially because their top center, Andrew Bogut, which currently playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, wasn't playing due to the ankle injury. The redeem team just cannot stand to see them being arrogant and telling people that they still can beat the US team. The redeem team stated to the world that they will beat the Australia team by double digit lead. In fact, they proved their words. In the second meeting between the US team and the Australia team in the Beijing Olympic 2008, the US team beat them by double digit margin. Not only that, their dominance keep showing until the end of the championship when they met the Spain team in the final game. The Spain team was a good team, that's why the redeem team doesn't underestimate them. Players in the Spain team such as Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez, and Jose Garbajosa are players that also had experienced the level of competition in the NBA. They also had Ricky Rubio, the 18 year old point guard that also became a top 10 NBA prospect since 2008. The Spain struggles a lot in the final games, but they also showed their potential to the US team. Since the beginning until the fourth quarter, the US team cannot put a double digit margin. The margin was very closed, even for some times the scores was tight. At last, the US team still won the game. They brought their gold medal honor back to US, the Gold medal that they haven't won since the era of 2000.

So, after all of the fact that the US basketball fall for a few times, did people still think that they are dominant? There will be so many arguments that can come from this question, but there will be no answer for it. The fact is just the US are still the top performer in basketball, and they always stay in the podium in every championship they joined. Nobody can predict what happened to US basketball in the future and what impact will other countries such as Spain, Argentina, and Greece bring to the world in the next ten years. All of these countries are still going to develop their programs to make them the leader in basketball.

Works Cited

  • Simon Wilkinson. "MVP of the 2006 FIBA World Championship" FIBA .com (2006): http://www.fiba.com/pages/eng/fe/06_wcm/news/lateNews/p/newsid/16276/FE_news_lateNews_arti.html
  • Jeff Taylor. "Gold Medal Game" FIBA.com (2006): http://www.fiba.com/pages/eng/fe/06_wcm/news/lateNews/p/newsid/16275/FE_news_lateNews_arti.html
  • Barry Stavro. "Magic Johnson and Larry Bird on the Lakers-Celtics rivalry" losangelestime.com (2009): http://www.losangelestimes.com/sports/magic-johnson-and-larry-bird-recall-lakersceltics-rivalry.html
  • Ethan Simmons. "Team USA dominance 'part of the past'" ESPN.com (2006): http://www.espn.com/us%20dominance.htm
  • Wikipedia. "United States Basketball" Wikipedia.com (2009): http://www.wikipedia.com/united-states-national-team.htm
  • Brian McCormick. "The Euro way to play basketball" powerbasketball.com(2003): http://www.powerbasketball.com/the-euro-way-to-play-basketball.htm
  • Wikipedia. "Amateur Athletic Union" Wikipedia.com (2009) http://www.wikipedia.com/amateur-athletic-union.htm