Global Hoops: Superpower and Growing Superstar?

Two recent events gave us ample pause to reflect on the ways that basketball has impacted our world in the 127 years of it’s existence: the start of the 2018-19 NBA season and the centennial of the Great War’s armistice on November 11. While soccer (football) claims the mantle of the world’s most beloved and popular sport, it has several decades advance play on basketball. But as these two fall pegs illustrate, the orange ball has made great bounds. 

 

Both sports had their modern watershed moments during the Great War, which contrary to popular misconceptions of being musty and dusty, is still a part of our everyday reality. As I reminded former collageues at the U.S. Department of State during my recent talk, “Sport Diplomacy: From World War One to Today,” the 1914-1918 era enabled many of our everyday references and actions—from wearing wristwatches to plastic surgery, medical advances (including news chemicals with which athletes could enhance performances post-1920!), and more. 

 

Even within the sports terrain, the war casts a long shadow, responsible for popularizing and democratizing many sports, especially team sports. Here, basketball and soccer are the two key stories. As explained in my recent Sporting News piece, the war was a watershed for basketball globally, accelerating its popularity in places as disparate as France, the United States, and China, while sowing the seeds for it’s 1920s implementation in the Balkans, Central Europe, and elsewhere. Moreover, as my conversation with the Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic highlighted, then as today, basektball serves as a bridge across cultures, bringing people together through shared love of the game and helping to tear down barriers. You can read the full piece plus the secrets behind Shaq O’Nealovic here :)  

 

If basketball began as a sport to help build healthy bodies, minds, and morals, then today it has also become a prime ground for diplomacy via cultural exchanges and the everyday people-to-people exchanges that occur in the locker room, stadium, court, and more. I’ve previously written on this angle vis-a-vis Martin Feinberg, Michel Rat, and the Paris Université Club team of the 1950s—as well as the 1966 France national team visit to China, a goodwill gesture to help cement ties following Paris’ reestablishment of official diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1964. 

 

But what do these exchanges look like today, both formally via national teams and informally via the international players who are tearing up NBA courts? That’s the question that my recent piece, “The Superpower of International Basketball Diplomacy” tackles. Read more at The Athletic or full pdf access here. 

Conjuring good fortune on West African pitches is more complex than mere superstition

Conjuring good fortune on West African pitches is more complex than mere superstition

When soccer news from outside of Europe penetrates the global consciousness, it is often some outlandish item, a curiosity of the can-you-believe-it variety. Two of the more famous incidents to come from West Africa since the turn of the millenium include the February 2002 arrest of Cameroon head coach Winfried Schafer at the Africa Cup of Nations for allegedly planting an amulet on the field and, in the summer of that year, the wild ride of Senegal’s team at the World Cup, where their success was rumored to be aided by the country’s marabouts, which are similar to shamans.

From the Black Power Salute to Colin Kaepernick: What's changed?

From the Black Power Salute to Colin Kaepernick: What's changed?

(CNN)They stood united on the Olympic podium, heads bowed, black-gloved fists raised in the Black Power salute while the "The Star Spangled Banner" rang out to honor athletic achievement.

Beautiful Protest

Beautiful Protest

This month marks fifty years since the 1968 Mexico Games, most often recalled for the athlete protests they spotlighted as part of that year’s global turbulence. But while popular memory focuses upon the Olympians and professionals whose actions, rhetoric, and examples helped draw attention to injustices, what about the athletes they inspired?

Spreading the Basketball Gospel

Spreading the Basketball Gospel

Basketball is often overlooked as one of the world's major sports; but the fact that so many other countries on all of the continents play their own brand of the game gives pause to those who think that global hoops is only NBA. It's not, and there's a very rich history still waiting to be mined.

The Cleveland Cabdriver's Son Who Sowed the Seeds for a Hoops Revolution

The Cleveland Cabdriver's Son Who Sowed the Seeds for a Hoops Revolution

One of my favorite stories in my work on the evolution of French basketball, transatlantic hoops influences, and the globalization of the game is that of Martin Feinberg and the alumni of Paris Université Club's two U.S. tours in 1955-56 and 1962.

Now, the origins of that story is available via The Athletic.

France's 2018 "World Cup Bump"

France's 2018 "World Cup Bump"

"Tonight, I want us to be remembered by all the French people who are watching," France's Paul Pogba urged his teammates, "by their children, their grandchildren and their great grandchildren, too."

The stirring locker room pep talk before the recent World Cup final served as a rallying cry for Les Bleus'4-2 win over Croatia, a victory that won more than just a second star for their collection.

The nationwide celebration unleashed that night capped more than two months of speculation over France's fate in Russia and the inevitable comparisons to the nation's 1998 World Cup-winning team. But following the July 16 victory parade and ceremonies, the French Football Federation (FFF) reminded people that, "after Russia, the next one is at our [house]."

Soccer players and NBA players are helping to spread the gospel of each others’ sports with their mutual admiration society

Soccer players and NBA players are helping to spread the gospel of each others’ sports with their mutual admiration society

After​ France​ won​ the World​ Cup,​ Les​ Bleus fans, including some​ of​ the​ country’s​ NBA players congratulated​ the​​ new champions on social media. The Charlotte Hornets’ Nicolas Batum, whose Twitter match commentary tracked the final’s ups and downs, chirped his solidarity and shared images of celebrations in Paris, from the Champs Élysées to the Tour Eiffel. Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, recently traded from Philadelphia to Oklahoma City, photographed his support and joy, while the Knicks’ “French Prince,” Frank Ntilikina, starred in the team’s gleeful World Cup tributes.