PARIS – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had a meeting this week in Paris and was asked by a gracious host how he drinks his coffee.
“A sucre?” asked French President Emmanuel Macron.
During that coffee, the NBA leader and the leader of France reached an agreement to work together in hopes of continuing to grow the game of basketball internationally, a perfectly timed marriage given that French star Victor Wembanyama he is a few months away from making it to the NBA and the Paris Olympics are about 18 months away.
The NBA announced a few details on Thursday, including a collaboration between the league and the LNB, which is France’s top professional league; events in which France and the NBA will work together as part of the preparation for Paris 2024; expanded youth programs; and additional work to grow the game in Africa, with the league and France committing to further investment there, including facilities capable of hosting Basketball Africa League games.
“I think his belief is very similar to the NBA’s in the power of sports to bring people together and what a constructive force it can be and even as a global engine to create common ground and empathy between people,” Silver said.
Macron, Silver said, had his schedule lined up with a BAL game during a visit to Rwanda in the league’s inaugural playoffs. Macron watched the match with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
“He’s very familiar with all of our global plans, particularly in Africa,” Silver said.
Macron had other pressing matters on his agenda this week. At least 1.1 million people protested in the streets of Paris and other French cities on Thursday amid nationwide strikes against plans to raise the retirement age, but Macron, who met Silver on Wednesday in Paris and was in a Franco-Spanish summit in Barcelona on Thursday, has said it will go ahead with the proposed pension reforms.
Basketball was probably just a brief distraction.
“I am delighted and proud of the NBA’s choice to make France and Paris one of its privileged playgrounds in the world,” Macron said. “It reflects the special and long-standing relationship that France has with the NBA. With the excellence of our training, the performance of our national teams and the organization of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we now have the opportunity to go further and further. participate in a useful and lasting association for the benefit of French basketball, as well as in support of our development policy in Africa”.
The NBA is in the process of planning another game in Paris next year, Silver said; spoke Thursday just before a game between the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, with Wembanyama and his family sitting courtside.
Silver and Macron also discussed plans for Paris 2024, including how the current schedule calls for preliminary games in Lille, some 140 miles north of Paris. That decision is not final and has been the subject of some criticism given basketball’s high-profile status on the Olympic programme.
“He assured us that everything would be fine,” Silver said.
Other topics covered by Silver on Thursday included:
Although Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio were in Paris this week, talks between the league and the union continued in New York.
“Our colleagues are back in New York, negotiating as we speak,” Silver said. “They’ve been meeting all week, going issue by issue and trying to resolve the issues that drive us apart. I would say though that I think we’re starting from a very strong foundation.”
The NBA and its players have until February 8 if either party wants to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement. That deadline has already been pushed back once since mid-December, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if it’s pushed back again.
“There’s a strong sense of partnership between the players and the league,” Silver said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t have disagreements.”
Among the issues the NBA and NBPA have been discussing in recent weeks is re-allowing players to enter the draft directly out of high school without waiting a year; that move is expected to be included in the next CBA, along with what the league considers a “spending upper limit” that would significantly tighten the rules on how much teams can spend each year on its roster.
With LeBron James now perhaps just a couple of weeks away from catching up with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and becoming the NBA’s leading scorer, Silver revealed some of the notions the league is considering to honor the achievement.
“There’s no question we’re going to stop that game and make sure we go down in history, the ball, the basket, the uniform,” Silver said. “We’re going to stop and make sure we’ve done our job as NBA archivists. At the same time, there’s the balance that they’re going to be playing against a team that wants to win that night and not be distracted. Most likely, we’ll do something in the moment. , but then we’ll plan a bigger celebration.”
James is on pace to break the record in early February, and if he does, the biggest celebration Silver spoke of is likely to be NBA All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City later that month. .
BACK TO NORMAL
The last time the NBA played in Paris before Thursday was in January 2020, just under two months before the league shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I actually remember when we were here, in January 2020, we started seeing people wearing masks. People knew something was coming,” Silver said. “Nobody was predicting at the time that the world would shut down and we’d continue to play in a bubble, etc. Our hope is, of course, that we’ve booked that pandemic, and the worst is behind us. We hope it is.”