Just as the appeal and impact of the game spreads across the globe, so too does the NBA’s search for the next superstar. Jimmy Ness hits the bleachers to sit with the scouts as they work to unearth the league’s next gem.
This interview comes courtesy of Homecourt – a digital basketball publication with a unique perspective on the culture of basketball and the way it enriches lives, right across the world. Catch more stories like this at Homecourtmag.com
Sport is a human pursuit. The quest for athletic mastery slices through border, regime and financial status. Whether post-soviet parish or emerging megalopolis; talent should be the only obstacle to ballin’. If you’re good, you’re good; no matter where you live. The NBA understands this. Their vast network trains and discovers hoopers from 100+ countries. With eyes on Africa, Asia and Australia, they want to reach every player, in every corner of the map.
When the talent pool widens, the NBA only gets better. Imagine the court-pummelling contest of a league that fully scours the globe. Bol Bol and Nikola Jokić are just the beginning. There’s a trove of extraordinary swagger and strategy waiting to add horsepower to an already kinetic league.
Far from an imperialistic crusade; the NBA’s offshore activity is people-first. They pour considerable resources into altering lives off-court. Going pro is merely a potential destination on the express-lane to upskilling mentally, emotionally and physically. NBA camps have reached more than 3000 participants, they also build facilities and support impoverished communities.
With a towering occupational title like “Senior Director of International Basketball Operations and Elite Basketball,” Chris Ebersole knows hoops. He commands a squad which consults in every major league and demographic you can think of.
Like asking a cobbler about shoes or a cop about crime, when you speak to the head of the world’s leading basketball network, you have to ask: What makes a player good enough for the NBA?
“I think everyone probably would understand that we would look for a lot of very specific physical traits for basketball players,” Ebersole explains from the league’s New York office.
“Obviously, tracking where the NBA is going towards more of a positionless game, [we are focused on] finding players that can fit that versatile mould and have the physical ability, foot speed, height and length to be able to guard multiple positions.”
For junior ballers, who will be scouted then managed throughout their development, it’s a little different. They can be as raw as a Wu-Tang demo, as long as they have the right hardware. Juvenile potential is defined in terms of creativity, risk-taking and play-making rather than stats like turnovers or accuracy.
“A lot of what we look at would be kind of on the mental make-up side and really the growth mindset,” says Chris.
“Finding young players who have a really exceptional work ethic and desire to put in the work, and get better and improve themselves. And they’re not afraid to develop their weaknesses. A lot of players will lean on their strengths from a young age, but I think finding players who have that mindset of developing all areas of their game, even if it started out as a weakness. I think that’s definitely a common thread with many of the players that we’ve seen be the most successful coming out.”