Every summer, the sport of baseball at the youth level is thrust into the mainstream media spotlight as hundreds of ballers from all over the world ages 11-13 descend upon Williamsport, Pa. for the globally televised Little League World Series, featuring some of the finest youth baseball players and teams in the world.
Over the years, the tournament has grown in popularity, has produced MLB players and has become a must-see sporting event on ESPN.
Once Americas pastime, baseball has lost some steam in this country do to the rising popularity of the NBA and NFL over the past 35 years. Not to be outdone by Little League, the NBA will soon announce the creation of the Jr. NBA World Championship an event that it hopes will challenge the iconic success of baseballs Little League World Series and make household names and overnight stars out of the kids who passionately participate while inspiring thousands of others to work towards the same goal.
The NBA will highlight the best young hoops talent on earth at the inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship https://t.co/opxlXbPiZR
I think what we were really focused on was developing a new model for this kind of basketball event, Kathy Behrens, the NBAs president of social responsibility and player programs, said in a phone interview with The Washington Postlast week. As you know, we worked together with USA Basketball over the course of the last 18 months to develop a set of standards and guidelines for youth basketball, and so this tournament, I think, represents in a way that nothing else that weve done before does.
Similar to the Little League World Series, teams will qualify for the championship rounds through regional play. Half of the teams will come from American qualifying tournaments from eight created regions (Central, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southeast and West), and half will come from eight international regions (Africa and Middle East, Asia Pacific, Canada, China, Europe, India, Mexico and South America), with those 16 teams then competing in the championship event at Disney World.
The inaugural event is scheduled for Aug. 7-12, 2018, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and will feature top boys and girls teams ages 14 and under from across the globe. While America has a rich cache of basketball skilled kids, Team Europe isn’t messing around in the selection of its squad.
The European regional champion will consist of the top players from Jr. NBA League programs across 17 countries in Europe (Czech Republic, England, Finland, France, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey). Each program is invited to nominate their best Jr. NBA League players to compete at a selection camp in Slovenia for the 10 available spots on the boys and girls teams that will represent Europe in the Jr. NBA World Championship. The selection camp will take place in April 2018.
NBA announced first of its kind Global Youth Basketball Competition w/ @DwyaneWade and @Candace_Parker as Global Ambassadors https://t.co/uz1iVXDQ5L #NBAintheUK #MakeYourOwnWay #NBA
Obviously, we know that what happens on the court is incredibly important, but we think this is going to be an event that will help kids really understand and embrace the values that we talk about around our game: teamwork, respect, determination, Behrens said. We are going to have a community service element. There will be life skills programming available that the kids will be participating in.
We think there are a lot of special elements to what we are going to be doing, and it really does make it the first-of-its-kind basketball competition around the world.
The Post also reports that “NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for some time now has emphasized youth basketball as a priority moving forward. And along those lines, it is notable that all coaches participating in the event will be required to be trained and licensed by USA Basketball or basketballs international governing body, FIBA, depending on whether the teams are representing a region from the United States or an international location.”
With basketball at its zenith of world popularity the tournament is a cant miss. The NBA has a unique opportunity to accomplish several important objectives for the future with this new tournament. It will help to loosen some of the control and influence that AAU basketball has on young talent development and will also serve as a talent locator for future NBA stars.