Americans wear the stars and stripes on our collective sleeves with such vehemence that we often neglect to acknowledge that a quality life can be attained outside of our borders. We are shocked when players are drafted by NBA teams, but decide to sign extensions with their respective international team, foregoing the glory and acclaim associated with the NBA life.
Just this week, Dario Saric, a surefire NBA Draft lottery pick, announced that he signed a new three-year deal with a Turkish club, Anadolu Efes. The deal offers an NBA buyout option after the second year, which means that a 20-year-old Saric, wouldn’t be able to sign with an NBA team for at least two more seasons. This decision was made in spite of promises from teams across the league that he would not only be drafted, but would receive substantial playing time.
What? Why would a young man, in the prime of his life, choose to disregard the allure of the American way? Does he not possess the intestinal fortitude for the continuous media scrutiny? Does the attraction to fortune and fame not transcend cultures? Or is the NBA just not as globally viable as we all thought?
This isn’t the first time this has happened, of course. Every year, the NBA Draft is littered with names as foreign to the average American fan as driving on the left side of the road. And every year, a growing number of those names, especially those taken in the second round, don’t actually play for the team that drafted them the following season.
It is almost as if NBA teams are considering their second-round pick an experimental selection, which is resulting in many players being stashed over in Europe, never to be heard from again. Draft and stash is becoming an actual draft strategy.
So the question is, are we overvaluing the perceived global appeal of the NBA, or is it more a product of international players not being physically and mentally ready for the rigors of an 82-game schedule, and the pressures that accompany it?
Why would Saric, who was a lock to be a top-10 pick, which would have guaranteed him a minimum salary of above $2 million per year, choose instead to play in the Euroleague, where that same salary puts him toward the top of the league, without much room for growth?
Well, to put it bluntly, it’s because there is life outside of the United States of America, and it is not the epicenter of the world. Maybe he doesn’t want be that far from his family. Maybe he doesn’t want to deal with an extreme language barrier. Maybe he’d rather be the big fish in a smaller pond. Or maybe he just doesn’t think the NBA should be the end-all, be-all of his existence.
Who are we to judge someone else for not wanting to come to the U.S.? Just because we all know it is the most preeminent nation ever conceived, doesn’t mean that we should impose it upon others.
I, for one, am glad Saric decided to postpone his stint in the NBA. Maybe now, the Denver Nuggets won’t be foolish enough to draft him.