Jose Colorado

Helping basketball players achieve their pro dreams.

The grim reality for imports post COVID-19 and how to combat it

Changes are on the way - but to what degree, remains to be seen.

With many international leagues aiming to restart in the coming months, logistical adjustments will undoubtedly come out on the other end.

Fan attendance, social distancing during travel (i.e. bus rides), length of schedule and pay reductions are the most obvious alterations.

But there could be an even more sobering reality on the horizon - an international market without imports.

Indeed, this is the case in New Zealand as its domestic league recently announced its creative plan to move forward with only local players.

While certainly not all international conferences will follow suit, there is a growing sentiment in many regions that this could become more commonplace than one would think for the rest of the year and possibly the first quarter of 2021 (depending on the advancements in addressing COVID-19).

New equation of competition

With imports already facing fierce competition in the global market, these latest developments could spell difficultly for many players.

Just consider the math.

If we estimate there are 200 FIBA-sanctioned leagues in the world (roughly what the current number is at) with 10 teams per conference and 12 spots available per squad, then that means in the entire world there are 24,000 player positions up for grabs.

However we must then account for the import - national ratio imposed by every league.

If we say there are three foreigners - a fairly consistent allowance in many parts of the globe - then that number is reduced even further.

In reality then there are roughly only 6,000 import spots available in the world.

And all this is prior to the highly likely reduction in foreigner slots that awaits.

While I’ve certainly seen some players thrive jumping from country to country solely as an import, these athletes seem to be in the minority.

More often than not, the vast majority are on the outside looking in, waiting for their ‘opportunity’ in the pros and unfortunately having to accept whatever offer comes their way.

And since clubs are very aware of the grossly over saturated and overqualified import market that exists today - especially within the world’s unequivocal powerhouse, the United States, managers are keen to switch out foreigners at the first moment’s notice.

All of this highlights the need for players to take initiative on multiple fronts as FIBA leagues slowly make its way back onto the hardwood.

The Five-Step Plan

  1. Contact teams, managers, coaches and agents and try to gather as much information as possible regarding the COVID-19 import allowance in various countries

  2. Research International Pro Academies (EuroProBasket is one of the most respected) and see if you would be willing to make the commitment to jump-start your career

  3. Don’t assume you will find a job this year. Secure another income stream immediately so you aren’t compromised should you have to wait.

  4. If you are eligible or believe you are eligible for a second passport/citizenship, begin the process of gathering the documents and inquiring at your local embassy. This can greatly improve your chances of landing a contract as discussed in last week’s blog.

  5. Stay ready. If you don’t receive an offer in the coming months. Don’t be discouraged, just continue on your training plan while practicing the above four steps.

Even if you are lucky enough to receive a contract there is certainly no guarantee you will remain for the entire duration of the season.

In my five years of overseas basketball I’ve seen more than a dozen imports cut after a single game.

Recently I was on a club and our foreigner didn’t make it past our two-week training camp.

We hadn’t even suited up yet and the board of directors had already seen enough.

With finances being squeezed tight through the pandemic it will be interesting to see the domino effect that takes place, meaning will higher-level imports be bumped down to lower-levels because of the reduced import slots?

As well, will team managers be as eager to send players home for under performing given the current economic situation? Or could this actually give the imports more “leash” in theory?

Nonetheless, these are all concerns that are out of a player’s control.

Be conscious of the situation but don’t be paralyzed by it.

Even should nothing come to fruition by the end of 2020, by practicing these steps one’s basketball career will greatly benefit in the long-term regardless.