Basketball has given bigger opportunities and platforms to kids all over the world, but with exposure comes more criticism. Social media has revolutionized AAU to the point where college coaches look to recruit players earlier. The media aims to rank kids before high school and fans engage with top players day-in and day-out online.
This increased exposure combined with the competitive nature of basketball has forced kids into the spotlight younger and earlier than ever before. Spectators sometimes lose sight of these kids’ ages, and the players themselves occasionally lose sight of the holistic aspects of the sport: Teamwork, respect, determination and community.
Recently, the National Basketball Association and professional basketball players have taken it upon themselves to create an initiative that not only ensures the growth of young ball players but, also one that aims to instill a sense of community and fun.
The NBA announced the 32-team roster for the Jr. NBA World Championship. It’s a first-of-its-kind global youth basketball tournament for the top 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls around the world. During the weeklong event, all 32 teams will not only compete in a tournament but will also participate in three life skills sessions as part of the event’s Developing the Total Athletes Series.
6 DAYS from the first-ever #JrNBAWorldChampionship! Check out the top 10 plays from the U.S. Regional Tournaments – the @jrnba comes to FOX and FS1 beginning August 7th https://t.co/THy2njmaF7
The Jr. NBA World Championship is more than a basketball competition; its a global stage for some of the top youth players from around the world to showcase their talent, have fun and learn from one another, said Jr. NBA World Championship Global Ambassador Dwyane Wade. I am excited to watch these young stars leave it all on the court and compete for the first Jr. NBA World Championship title.
This same sentiment was echoed by Jr. NBA Global Ambassador Candace Parker, who also believes the increased exposure can make people lose sight of the fact that these are just kids who need room to grow.
“The way kids are, I wouldn’t say marketed, but in terms of being put on YouTube, you can go and watch a 5th grader’s game,” Parker said. “Obviously coverage from Fox Sports, I think a lot of people are losing sight that these are kids and there’s room for growth. Also, just because you are on top now, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re going to be on top later. So, I just think it’s going in with the correct mindset about this not being the end all of your career. But this tournament is a good stepping stone to come measure yourself against other talents as well as grow and learn. It’s kind of the main objective of all of this.”
The inaugural event will bring together the top 32 boys and girls teams, 16 U.S. and 16 international, that advanced from regional competitions earlier this year. The 16 international teams (eight boys and eight girls) represent Africa & Middle East, Asia Pacific, Canada, China, Europe, India, Mexico and South America.
Fox Sports will air 16 games throughout the tournament, giving equal exposure to both boys and girls in the tournament. As media and fans watch alike, some of these players will have a bigger platform to showcase their talent and skills.
And although situations like this can bring great pressure and scrutiny, here’s an opportunity for kids to simply be kids and enjoy the love of basketball.
Jr. NBA Global Ambassador, Candace Parker talks about the life lessons we can learn from basketball.