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Has European Professional Basketball Caught Up to the Nba?

Has European Professional Basketball Caught Up to the Nba?

Contrary to conventional wisdom, U.S. pro basketball squads and Euroleague teams have been actively competing for the past 20 years in head-to-head competition other than at the Olympics. Way back in 1987 the Milwaukee Bucks beat Tracer Milan of Italy, 123-111, in the opening game of the initial McDonald’s Open, held at the Milwaukee Arena. The Bucks beat the Soviet National Team, 127-100, in the championship game of the tournament sanctioned by the NBA and FIBA.

The next year, in the inaugural McDonald’s Championship to be held in Europe, the Boston Celtics vanquished Real Madrid 111-96 at the Palacio de Deportes in Madrid, Spain.

Also in 1988, the Atlanta Hawks became the first U.S. pro team to play in the Soviet Union when they defeated the Soviet Georgia All-Stars, 85-84, in an exhibition game.

By the third year, the McDonald’s Championship moved to Rome, Italy. There, the Denver Nuggets represented the NBA against the Spanish Champion F.C. Barcelona, the European Champion Jugoplastika Split, and Philips Milan. The Nuggets thumped Barcelona in their tournament opener and went on to beat Jugoplastika Split 135-129 to win the title.

In 1991 the so-called ‘city of lights’ was the site for McDonald’s Championship. The Los Angeles Lakers went to Paris, France to compete against the host team CSP Limoges, Joventut Badalona and Slobodna Dalmacija Split of the former Yugoslavia. With Magic Johnson at the helm, the Lakers defeated CSP Limoges before edging out Joventut Badalona 116-114 to claim the title.

It was 1993 which saw the first pre-season game between two American professional teams ever played in Europe, the Orlando Magic, with 14 fourth-quarter points from Dennis Scott, thumped the Atlanta Hawks 120-95 before a capacity crowd of 9,483 at Wembley Arena in the opening of the two-game NBA London Games series.

In 2003, the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies played an NBA pre-season game in Paris, as part of the NBA Europe Games 2003, in front of a overflowing crowd of 14,480. The NBA Champion Spurs won 105-93 and French guard Tony Parker got a standing ovation when he received the MVP in front of his home crowd. After the aforementioned game, the Memphis Grizzlies traveled to Barcelona where they played local team FC Barcelona on October 10. Memphis won the game 91-80 and Spanish native Pau Gasol, former player for FC Barcelona, put his many skills on full display.

Matthew Paolini is a Clevelend, OH-based freelance writer with Online Yellow Pages.

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