Jose Colorado

Helping basketball players achieve their pro dreams.

How Hard is Overseas Basketball: How to Deal With Dirty Players in Professional Basketball (Real Life Examples) [2020]

They’re pesky, persistent and at times downright dirty.

But their methods could potentially hold the key to championship aspirations.

They are the “national goons” and in overseas basketball they play a vital part in upsetting the balance of power on the court.

With import players frequently carrying the offensive burden in the lower- and middle-tier pro leagues (Europe as the exception), opposing coaches often become quite creative in their defensive schemes.

No, that likely won’t manifest itself in a perplexing trapping zone-press.

Instead it will look more like a myriad of below-average domestic players having their turn to irritate, annoy, talk and initiate confrontation for the full 40 minutes against your best hoopers.

While not exactly honorable - in my opinion at least - the philosophy is actually quite reasonable when considered purely from a black-and-white winning perspective.

Coaches will look for any way to kill (figuratively speaking, of course) the head of the snake - meaning foreigners.

An ejection for an ejection is the ideal scenario; my national for your import.

There Is No Nobility In Overseas Basketball

Playing teams aggressively with force, tough-nosed defense and the occasional hard foul is one thing, but this dark side of overseas basketball much too often strays into reprehensible acts and dangerous cheap shots that have no place in any sport.

On more than one occasion, I’ve been hit below-the-belt, punched in the gut and face and blatantly thrown out of the air.

It became so insufferable for one of my American teammates that he began waiting for opposing teams to finish changing post-game. He wanted to get his hands on some of the most egregious culprits, resulting in full-fledged fist fights in the tunnel.

Needless to say, this was a bit extreme and could have ended poorly for all parties involved.

But then again, from that day forward there weren’t too many brave enough to antagonize this foreigner.

You Got To Get Dirty

Rarely, if ever, will these shenanigans come from a fellow import as there seems to be an unwritten rule in many regions of the world that foreigners should be above these acts.

Nonetheless, after five years of overseas basketball, this is something that simply becomes a part of your game: always be beware and always protect yourself.

I’ve been in many timeouts where a coach put in a marginally-skilled national with one sole instruction

“Take out their import. I don’t care how.”

Most recently, this occurred to me following an outstanding opening game of the first round of the playoffs where I had 24 points and four assists on 60 per cent shooting from the floor.

Knowing their nationals couldn’t slow me, I realized what was coming next as the series shifted to their home floor.

Accordingly, the following match I was antagonized, elbowed in the back and even punched in the gut as I ran up the court.

Previously I’d look wide-eyed and exasperated to the referees for their salvation.

But after years of experience, I knew they wouldn’t be saving me.

It’d have to be vigilante justice as per usual.

My coach was also cognizant of the situation and - without me telling him anything - immediately sent out our twelfth man in the opening quarter when he realized what was happening.

The Best Ability is Availability: Keeping Your Composure

With all this being said, not all nationals players are dirty - far from it.

In fact, the vast majority of them seem to play the game with a great sense of nobility and honor while still maintaining their competitive edge.

However, for every team out there inevitably there will be a couple - if not a trio - of players being paid so that they can do anything in their power to take you out of your game.

Retaliation seems like the most obvious answer but it must be subtle, concise and calculated.

Too often imports impulsively strike back following a malicious act with the referees and ball in plain sight.

I can recall losing one playoff series in particular for this sole reason: our centre simply snapped after a slew of uncalled cheap shots and delivered a vicious elbow resulting in his expulsion in a critical elimination game.

He hasn’t been called back to the league since.

Under FIBA rules it only takes five fouls or one Flagrant-2 (unsporting foul as it is called) for your night to be over.

And with clubs being so dependent on foreigners, one can imagine how repeated incidents of this can greatly increase one’s chances of being cut and diminish one’s perceived reliability for future contracts.

Instead trust your teammates and coach, be discrete in your retaliation and above all play through it as much as you can.

Don’t react to every confrontation and pick your battles.

It may just be the difference between you staying or being sent home.