When we linked to an international game recently, it was in a posh Serbian gym which really wasn’t all that far off from an NBA style arena. It had a lot of the, to borrow from Art Chansky, razzle-dazzle elements that makes the NBA such an assault on the senses.
Sometimes it’s good to see how things are done in other parts of the world. Take for instance Africa.
In this match from FIBA AfroCan 2023, there are some technical issues. The audio doesn't’ work very well, at least not for us. The gym looks a lot like a high school gym with wooden backboards. There are no seats on the side of the arena where the teams are (when you can hear the audio you get the sense that the camera is just behind the crowd.
And frankly, the basketball is not very good, nor would you necessarily expect it to be. Rwanda and Burundi don’t have a lot of resources to put into recreation. If you aren’t sure, look at the player protection on the stanchion, which seems risky at best. You don’t want to go flying in to that thing at top speed.
Even so, there are some important things here.
First of all, simply the fact that basketball has penetrated globally to this level. None of these guys are hugely talented, but they understand the game well. They play well together as teams. No one is doing stuff that’s unnecessary or counter productive. Talent and experience are limited but they’re well coached and smart.
And secondly, these guys aren’t - at least we can’t imagine that they are - dreaming of playing in the NBA. They’re nowhere near that level. But they do play with heart and passion. They’ve worked hard and love the game. And it shows.
This is really pretty cool. It takes a bit to adjust to the audio and the lack of glitz, but if you watch for a bit, what you do see is the heart of the game, and it’s beautiful.