The NBA is the biggest basketball league in the world, but it is not the only game in town.
In the 2019 offseason, Nikola Mirotić surprisingly chose to play for EuroLeague club, Barcelona. He received offers within the $40-50 million around the NBA. While in the EuroLeague, he signed a €26 million contract (or $28 million). He is a player who was perfect for many systems in the NBA because of his size and shooting ability. People have assumed that he went back to Europe because they offered more money.
Mirotić found the idea humorous saying, ‘It makes me laugh a lot. To answer the question, I came to Barcelona because, for me, basketball is the top priority, along with my family. If I don’t enjoy it, I don’t have that emotion, that desire to be better day by day. In the end, it doesn’t matter what money they give me if I’m not happy. If I don’t get up every day wanting to go to practice, it’s not worth it’.
Mirotić played five seasons in the NBA, suiting up for teams like the Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans and the Milwaukee Bucks. He managed to average 12.3ppg, 5.9rpg and 1.3apg during his time in the biggest basketball league.
He played a perfect style for the current era. As a power forward who can still do what is expected of a traditional big man but he can also space the floor with his shooting. Many were disappointed when Mirotić chose the EuroLeague over the NBA, where he had lucrative offers.
Although he liked playing in the NBA, he really did miss the style of basketball that was played in the EuroLeague. He previously played for Real Madrid for six years from 2008 to 2014, being named as EuroLeague rising star for two consecutive years in 2011 and 2012.
Mirotić said, ‘The most important ones are family reasons and that I missed Europe. The European style of basketball. I was in an area of, let’s say comfort. And I like to be a better player every day. There I was an important player but everything was about two or three stars. Although you were a starter, it was very difficult to make a jump, be something else. I always wanted to be a leader and fight for more titles’.
Now in Barcelona, he is the ace, he is relied upon to make big shots and lead his teammates with his play. He has led the club to the third spot on the EuroLeague standings, just behind Real Madrid and Anadolu Efes.
It’s not just him, players like Shane Larkin chose the EuroLeague over the NBA because they wanted to shine and they knew that in the EuroLeague they will be given the opportunity.
Larkin was a productive player on the Boston Celtics, backing up both Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier. When he thought that he was being underused, he decided to move to Europe. His decision has paid off as he is the favourite to win the EuroLeague MVP this season.
They see the NBA as a league that only focuses on their stars. With their performances in the EuroLeague, they are proving that the NBA is not the only game in town.