I have spent many hours in the past few years writing for FIBA about the ‘Basketball Without Borders’ initiative – one which travels around the globe.
This year, it has been particularly poignant to see so many of the young rising stars that BlueStar Media has been tracking in the past few years get an invite.
— FIBA media (@FIBA_media) February 8, 2018
Much of the obvious attention has already been placed on the European contingent such as #FIBAEuropeU16 MVP Iliana Rupert and the highly talented German Emily Bessoir, but it is particularly encouraging to see the towering China center Han Xu on that list.
I say this because back in Zaragoza when she starred at the #FIBAU17 Worlds, almost guiding her country onto the podium, I spoke to her and she explained how much she wanted to go to the WNBA.
It was easy to scoff and be dismissive from a practical point of view at the time, since Chinese players just don’t go to the WNBA. They play for the national team during the summer, then they play WCBA.
But right across the women’s global game, I feel like things are changing. Whether there is a cross-pollination of cultures being driven in the background by commercial interests which is now filtering it’s way to the coal face, I am not sure.
So, the participation of Xu at the Los Angeles camp does Spark (excuse the pun) the question of whether in years to come, the basketball trade will be a two-way street. For every Breanna Stewart heading to China, we will have a Han Xu coming to the WNBA.
Will this just be the first Californian trip for the rising Asian star – or will she even be wearing a Sparks vest one day? I hope that this is at least a possibility.
The globalisation of the women’s game and the WNBA in particular is so fundamentally important to its survival.
My issue with the WNBA is that it has not been eclectic enough in its make-up so it injects a large shot of vanilla into its appeal – a mistake (in my humble opinion). It has of course been hamstrung by it’s position in the FIBA calendar which restricts its ability to attract all of the talent it deserves and needs.
Right now, moves are underway to strengthen that dual appeal of WNBA and EuroLeague Women. They should be like coffee and cream, an ideal fit. Until now, it has never felt (to me at least) that way. It is so exciting this is slowly changing. Dual promotion has to be done – it’s a no-brainer.
While that trans-Atlantic ‘special relationship’ is being developed, the presence of Xu offers the opportunity for the WNBA and its commercial partners to capitalize on another one. I know they will have thought long and hard about this and made inroads already into China and the Asian market.
So, before the careers of these young players ready to land in LA are finished, it would be so exciting if the entire concept of Basketball without Borders really could become a reality in the women’s game.
Now how good could that be?
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