Madrid, Feb 18 (EFE).- Chus Bueno (Barcelona, 1969), vice president of the NBA for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, analyzes in EFE what the Cleveland All-Star will be like this weekend while regretting that the injury Ricky Rubio has separated him from being able to be on a date that will almost return to normal.
At the moment, Chus Bueno assures that the League is not considering taking the All-Star to Europe due to the logistical problems that it would entail. Of course, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver has recognized on several occasions, what is closer is the dispute of a Cup format tournament, based more on “Soccer Super Cups” than on the Copa del Rey of Spanish basketball.
Question: You will be in the Cleveland All-Star, which will be special because of the almost return of normality to this great event, right?
Answer: Without a doubt. We are recovering precovid activities, although some we have not yet been able to. This is the case of ‘Basketball Without Borders’, where we brought together talent from all over the world. But we have an All-Star that for the fan who is going to watch it on television, it will be completely normal. He’s going to be a lot like what we had before.
Q: And also because with the top 75 list something special will surely be done. As in the 50th anniversary of the League, when the All-Star was also held in Cleveland.
A: Yes, there will be special things like the recognition of these players as well as the performances that will take place at the break. It is a time to take a little look back and continue looking to the future, because we have incredible talent on the courts. You know that for the NBA, recognizing people who have done things in the past is essential.
Q: Looking back, seven years from that 2015 in which we had the jump between Pau and Marc Gasol. Now we don’t have Spaniards in the All-Star. Does this affect the impact of the weekend in Spain?
A: That moment was unique. Hopefully we can repeat it one day, but it never existed before and it will be difficult, let’s not say impossible, for it to be repeated. But we believe that there have been many players who have helped the growth of the League and have been great ambassadors. Now with all the technologies and social networks, the fan has much more access to content from all his favorite players and teams. This has made it easier for the work of these ambassadors not to be so lacking. It is always necessary to have local heroes. Having Ricky in the All-Star would have been fantastic… but having the Hernangómez brothers, Ibaka and him in the League is always good.
But the European market, which is mature in basketball because it understands it, because there is basketball in schools, makes people look more naturally at NBA players. We have already passed that presentation phase; now everyone consumes it as they want.
Q: One of the keys to the NBA to consume the League is the League Pass. What time is it?
A: League Pass has grown tremendously in recent years. There is sensitivity in Europe where we have outstanding national players. I remember that Doncic’s first season went up in Slovenia more than 200%, and in Spain more than 56%. Jokic in Serbia, Antetokounmpo in Greece… It’s going up really fast. But also in a general way. In countries like the United Kingdom, which we might think would not stand out as much because it does not have local players or basketball culture, it is at the same level as Germany and Spain in the ‘top 3’ of most League Pass consumers in Europe.
Q: And have you noticed a growth of the League with the actions of the 75th anniversary?
A: Yes we are noticing it. We are doing special marketing actions, like the ‘Bus Lane’. And things are going to happen in the All-Star, like in the rest of the season. We hope to continue surprising.
Q: Where is the NBA with the growing world of NFTs, cryptocurrencies, metaverse…?
A: As you have seen, one of the best activations we had during the pandemic was precisely this, launching, together with our partner, Dapper Labs, our NFTs. This had a very big impact and reached the fan very well. In addition, it generated a lot of income that helped alleviate what we were not having. This shows us that embracing the technologies and things that come, the sooner the better. We have to understand the value they can give us and give to the fans. We always look at this very carefully and with a very progressive mentality.
One thing that we are always told in the NBA is that we are innovative and we embrace technology. “Look, they have already signed up!”… we are proud of that vision and we are curious. We are talking to people from Meta to understand what the metaverse is… in 2010, in the Barcelona-Los Angeles Lakers, we were the first to make a game in 3D, although it is now totally forgotten. Some things work and others don’t, due to the evolution of technology. But you have to be close to the technologies when you start, but as you know the NBA well we are very close to what the metaverse can mean for us.
Q: And in the ‘real world’, to embrace new ideas. It was leaked last week that the NFL was considering bringing the Super Bowl to Tottenham’s field in the future, as part of its European expansion. Would it be possible to see an All-Star in Europe?
A: In these innovations, we are always talking about innovating the All-Star format, if we do a tournament, with the famous Copa del Rey… we are thinking about everyone. But I don’t think so. In the end, the Super Bowl is the end of a tournament; it allows you to go to a site play it and finish. In the case of the All-Star, it happens in the middle of the season. Displacing everyone when there are people who play on the same Thursday… it has some logistical problems because it means stopping the competition in the middle of the season and taking it to another continent would mean more barriers to jump and problems to solve. At the moment, it is not on the NBA roadmap. But as I always say in this house, not now and in the future I don’t know. Planes fly faster every day, the other day it was said that in 15 years it will be possible to fly from the United States to London in 35 minutes, that could change things.
Q: You mentioned the Cup that seems to be imitating the NBA, Adam Silver talks openly about it. Right now the Copa del Rey is being played in Spain. Has the NBA been based on it?
A: The Copa del Rey, which is fantastic, is not the one that has served as a reference the most. They have focused more on football. In Soccer Super Cups. By the amount of volume they move. But I do tell you that Adam Silver and Mark Tatum know the Copa del Rey perfectly, they know the format, how it works in Spain… they’ve both been in it for more than 20 years. They have studied it very well.
We will see in the future. Yes you like it, Adam has already said it so I have nothing more to say. We are looking to see if we can do any in the future.
Q: Where there is a skipper, the sailor does not rule…
A: (laughs). Of course. Adam asks a lot. You know how we are in the NBA; we like data, technologies… but above all, understand them first. We do not jump into the pool bravely because the brand demands excellence. The decision will be made by Adam together with the owners, as strategic decisions are made that can change the NBA as it is understood today.
Oscar Maya Belchi
(c) EFE Agency