At the beginning of its current season, the NBA announced that the league's 101 international players from 37 countries and territories on opening night rosters was a new record. This was 9 more international players than the previous year's record total of 92, and was the first time that the league had over 100 international players. This feat was further accentuated by the fact that the reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs lead the league for the third consecutive season with nine international players.
The evidence is clear: the sport of basketball is quickly becoming more global and will soon decrease the seemingly large distance between itself and football (American dubbed "soccer") on the world's popularity scale.
While football will most likely eternally retain its spot as the number one and most popular sport in the world, the slot for number two is much more competitive and indecisive. As basketball attempts to gain traction on this endeavor, one particular start-up is attempting to do what it can to further globalize the sport and bridge the gap between European teams and American players.
Metis Sports, founded by recent USC business school graduate Brandon Smith, will seek to source American talent for European basketball teams with an emphasis on advanced metrics and statistics.
"Very few European basketball teams [currently] have a process for finding talent; whether they're American or otherwise," Smith said. "We were able to able to create a product that emphasizes advanced metrics and helps build rosters for European basketball teams."
The idea for Metis Sports was initially spawned during the 2011 NBA lockout, and was further built upon after Smith wrote an essay during his time at USC that was about creating an agency with a focus on investment management for professional athletes.
"I wanted to find a way to create something that would support them (professional athletes) and build a new generation of financially responsible athletes," Smith said. "[And] during this process I realized that the United States is oversaturated with avenues like this [and] that there was a trend of American players that were foregoing chances to play in the United States and going overseas."
Prior to graduating from USC last May, Smith's idea for Metis Sports was acknowledged by the university and he was named as the 2014 Marcia Israel Outstanding student; an award given to the individual who has developed the most promising entrepreneurial venture during their time at the institution. This award inspired Smith to pursue his dream, and travel to Germany as the country's pro-basketball season began last October.
Germany's basketball league is the one of the best in Europe and also features the largest contingency of Americans players outside of the United States. During his three months of research in Germany, he was able to learn more about basketball's place within German culture and make direct connections with teams in the country's basketball league.
"It gave me a sense of perseverance [and] it challenged me a lot," Smith said, in reference to living and making connections in Germany. "What I learned was that people were not only receptive, but wanted to help as well."
Smith is now in the midst of a crowd-funding campaign that will aid him and the company as they attempt to complete a prototype of their product. His goal is to have mechanisms in place so that the product can be made available to German league teams by the end of this year.
"We're building this thing brick by brick so that by the time the season starts in Europe again in October, we're full steam ahead," he said.
The NBA and basketball's global popularity is continuing to grow, and Metis Sports will only enhance that progression. Additionally, the NBA's perpetually increasing international player population and potential league structure changes will further aid the growth of Metis Sports. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has even stated his desire to raise the league's minimum age to 20, which could result in more top high school recruits opting to play overseas for two to three years before entering the NBA draft.
"As the NBA continues to push its global initiative, and as players continue to be promoted internationally, the sport is going to explode," Smith said. "Positioning ourselves in Europe has enabled us to be on the front end of that trend."
If you are interested in learning more about Metis Sports and its crowdfunding campaign, click here.