Reconciling the European?

Courtesy of Benetton

Reconciling the European? Globalization and the National Basketball Association

(submitted by sean smith to the 2009 contesting "europe" conference at york university)

The contemporary era of globalization in the world of professional basketball was catalyzed in the late 1980s and early 1990s by two primary events. The first consisted of a perfect storm of sport-media-sponsor synergy in which the U.S.-based National Basketball Association (NBA), athletic footwear giant Nike, the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), and Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls assembled to form one of the initial success stories of post-Fordist production and consumption. The second was the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to admit professional athletes for the first time at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona. The U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball team, led by Jordan and the celebrity spectacle that accompanied him and his teammates, proceeded to demolish all competition it faced in claiming the gold medal.

The young media audiences from around the world that consumed the spectacle of 1992 Olympic basketball have become part of an increasingly cosmopolitan player base in the NBA. This paper examines the case of the NBA and basketball talent migration from three perspectives: under the rubric of a homogenized (and tacitly "non-American") European identity that has been variously applied to athletes from different European countries, South America and even China; in the positive sense of Europe as a potential source of untapped athletic labour talent; and in exploring the seeds of a counter-migration that suggests a challenge to the hegemony of the traditional power structures in North American professional basketball.

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