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Volume 91, Issue 29
Tuesday, October 21, 1997
The edge: World beaters?
Are the Chicago Bulls world champions? In terms of pure talent, yes, but does winning the NBA championship warrant such a claim? No.
There isn't a team in the world, as the Bulls showed in last weekend's McDonald's Championship held in France, that can stack up to Michael Jordan and his crew when they quite handily beat Paris-St. Germain 89-82 and Olympiakos 104-78.
The results were quite impressive, considering Chicago was minus all-star forward Scottie Pippen and the league's best rebounder Dennis Rodman. On top of all this, superstar Jordan had to take it easy due to sore feet and Bulls coach Phil Jackson wasn't prepared to overuse "His Airness," even though Jordan still scored over 20 points on both nights with less than normal court time.
It's a moot point that Chicago was head and shoulders above the best teams from the other leagues around the world, but that aside, it's still hard to justify why the NBA champion should automatically be declared a world champion if there isn't a team outside of North America that is represented in the NBA.
The same problem arises in Major League Baseball, where the ultimate confrontation is labeled "the World Series." An obvious explanation is that America has a superiority complex it loves to feed. The American mind-set seems to be that if you're the best in the U.S., you're the best in the world.
A simple solution to provide some legitimacy to the claim of "world champion," would be to have an annual winners cup as they do in European soccer.
International tournaments like the recent McDonald's Championship will be beneficial to North America's professional sports leagues like the NBA, by generating interest outside of the traditional continental market.
The NBA recognizes this and has begun to target the global market on a more aggressive scale by sending "Dream Teams" to the Olympics in 1992 and 1996, as well as to the World Basketball Championship in 1994.
The NFL has followed suit by holding exhibition games in Mexico, plus they own the World League of American Football and have invested both time and money in the CFL in an attempt to help it succeed.
Similarly, the NHL has started to broaden its horizons as well, with the recent two game mini-series between Vancouver and Anaheim in Japan and the revised North America-versus-the-world all-star game format.
If the NBA wants to work on their international appeal, the league should consistently send its champion to an international tournament every year to play champions from other countries.
History would seem to support the notion that it should be taken for grantedthe NBA champion is the best team in the world. The NBA is a perfect 15-0 in the McDonald's Championship and only one NBA team in history has lost to an international team (the Atlanta Hawks lost to the Soviet national team in 1986). However, if the league were to continue to test its best against the rest of the world, the disparity between the North American contingents and the international teams would inevitably dissipate, as the popularity of the sport increases in foreign countries and the talent pool broadens.
Similar to their southern neighbours, Canadians are also extremely nationalistic about the sports they are passionate about or so the outcry against NHL expansion would seem to indicate. Along with it comes a protectionist tendency and a desire to keep hockey Canadian, but the truth of the matter is sports knows no boundaries and expansion, which may eventually reach a global-scale, will see the game reach its truest potential.
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