However, all feelings of LeBron, Kobe and D-Wade aside, count me among those that believe that international defection is not a serious concern and really doesn't deserve all the publicity it's gotten. At the end of the day, I have to believe that the competitive desire of most NBA players would override their desire for a big foreign paycheck. Don't get me wrong, European leagues have really improved in recent years, and have produced many good NBA players, but the top to bottom quality of these leagues can't hope to match the NBA. There's just too much of a talent advantage for the American league. The NBA can draw from a huge talent pool out of college, and benefits from the seasoning recruits gain there and the structured salary system for rookies. Many players in European leagues are very young, having not attended college, and come with high price tags with no actual limits on what highly valued prospects can get from teams. This all adds up to mean that the NBA is the most competitive basketball league in the world, and earning fame as an NBA player is not only lucrative financially but also comes with the pride of having achieved everything against the best players in the world. For people like Boykins, Childress and many other NBA roleplayers, the opportunity to cash in is too great, but stars like Bryant, James and Wade have their legacies to consider. Bryant and James in particular are constantly fighting off comparisons to Michael Jordan, and striving to be remembered as NBA legends. How would jumping to an international team be construed in the public eye? Would they be able to accept the fact that people would criticize them for thinking only about the money and not competing against the best in the world? How would they handle being out of the mainstream American media? More importantly to them, perhaps, how would the companies behind their endorsement deals feel about such a move? It just seems like that, while the monetary value would be great, the other implications of a move overseas would be too great for star players to overcome.
The other factor, that must inevitably be considered is how would some of these NBA players adjust to a move to a completely foreign country? A player like Bryant, who lived in Italy for much of his childhood, would obviously have less difficulty with the move than others, but for some players this obstacle could prove to be too great. Imagine you're LeBron James for example. You've lived in Ohio your whole life. You were born in Akron, and currently play professionally in Cleveland. You haven't been to college, still live in close contact with your family, and you are now presented with the opportunity to move to an entirely different country, one that perhaps you've never been to, leaving everything you have ever known behind. Yes, you will be more than compensated for your hardship, but it's not exactly like you're just scraping by with the millions of dollars you make now. Would it really be worth the money? I just don't honestly think a few more million dollars can make that much of a difference when it means not only sacrificing your personal life, but also enduring the huge publicity firestorm it would generate.
For these many reasons, it just seems to me that the NBA will never have to deal with losing one of their major stars while they are in the prime of their careers. If anything, the most plausible situation could be that Bryant would jump to an Italian league during the twilight of his playing days, after winning a championship without Shaq and cementing his legacy as an all time great. Even then, the controversy surrounding it would be huge, and could prompt David Stern to look into European expansion sooner than he might want to. Overall though, it just doesn't seem that likely. NBA stars today still make gaudy amounts of money, and eventually such large amounts of money lose their significance; after all, one can only spend so much money in a lifetime. Maybe the commissioner has some reason to be concerned, but at the end of the day, it looks like most NBA stars aren't going anywhere.