BRISBANE, Australia (AP)Baron Davis, Metta World Peace and Shane Battier have spent time in Asia helping build the profile of basketball, and their base of fans. Now they’re buying in.
The East Asia Super League ambassadors are touting the revamped championship to be a ”game changer” in the region.
Davis, a two-time NBA All-Star, said the home-and-away format set to launch in October can be the impetus for East Asian countries to eventually be Olympic medal contenders in the sport.
”I see the EASL as being a huge game changer because when you bring countries together, when you bring in leagues together, when you bring the best and the top-tier talent, you know, then it’s this unified message and projection to the rest of the world,” Davis said. ”That’s the most important thing … having the best compete, and having the best represent an entire side of the world.”
The 2022-2023 season will involve eight of the premier clubs from Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan and a Hong Kong-based club called the Bay Area Twin Phoenixes, which will feature a mix of players from across the region including mainland China.
It will run parallel with the national leagues, giving the region’s home-grown stars a chance to go head-to-head more frequently.
Expansion is on the horizon, with the league aiming to have 16 teams in Season 3, possibly including clubs from China in the mix to join.
”By doing this, bringing all the teams together, you’re just bringing the quality of basketball to that Olympic, international, professional level,” Davis said. ”And when you think about the evolution of the Olympics, you see how Spain, you’ve seen how France, you know, all of these countries that become powerhouses and so, I believe that through this league, we’re going to see an Asian country become one of those podium people at the Olympics.”
The NBA has helped trigger a basketball boom.
World Peace, the former Ron Artest, said a new competition would bring more attention to the sport in the region.
”The players in Asia, we do want to hear about them here in America,” he said. ”With the EASL, it gives them a chance to actually cross over and people can see how talented they are.”
Details for the revamped competition, transforming it from a single-site event that started in 2017 into a regional league, were announced in December.
Matt Beyer, the league’s CEO, said Davis, World Peace and Battier joined as shareholders and global ambassadors because of their connections with Asia.
They ”are legendary NBA star players that have worked closely with Asian brands in endorsement roles, visited Asia many times, played alongside and against legends such as Yao Ming in the NBA and understand the marketplace deeply, while being loved by Asian fans,” Beyer said. ”It’s an honor to be working with them in this rapid growth phase.”
The trio will be working in front of the cameras and behind the scenes, he said. ”We’ve positioned ourselves as the hub of Asian basketball storytelling.”
Mohamed Abdullah contributed from Singapore.
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