FIBA warns South Korea about basketball problems

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You might not know this, but Japan’s basketball federation, the JBA is currently banned from all FIBA activities. This means that Japan, the host country of the 2020 summer olympics, can not participate in any international basketball competition at any level. The ban was placed in November 2014 after numerous warnings from FIBA to unify its national federation with its two professional leagues. This is a huge loss for Japan but the future looks optimistic as FIBA implemented its own staff to get basketball in Japan back on its feet.

Recent reports have shown that Japan’s neighbors of the north, South Korea, are facing their own battle with FIBA. A leaked document shows the Korean Basketball Association has been officially warned by the Federation of International Basketball Association (FIBA) to unify its pro leagues and its national basketball federation to work under one organization.

What does this mean? South Korea has three different basketball organizations, 1. the Korean Basketball Association who deals with FIBA directly and handles all of the Korean national teams that compete in international competition, 2. The Korean Basketball League who runs a professional basketball league in South Korea, and 3. The Women’s Korean Basketball League who, well, you can guess, they run the women’s professional league. FIBA wants South Korea to unify all three of these organizations into one national federation.

Document from FIBA to KBA

The FIBA document sent to the KBA states that while all three national organizations are in good standing, the development of South Korean basketball is slower than average. The letter also notes that South Korea is not making strides towards holding any international competitions. FIBA strongly recommends combining the KBA with both pro leagues so that Korea basketball can have one large entity with one goal in mind and that’s to develop the domestic basketball content so it can be showcased to the rest of the world.

The problem with this is that the communication from the pro leagues to FIBA have to go through the KBA with creates a lot of lag in the system. If FIBA wants to address the KBL about an issue, it must go through the KBA who relays the message to the KBL. Once that is done, the KBL answers to the KBA and the KBA forwards the message back to FIBA. And when dealing with player issues, it could be as complicated as FIBA calling the KBA, the KBA calling the KBL, the KBL calling the team, the team calling the player, and reply through the same process all over again. FIBA wants to add efficiency to South Korean basketball.

Another problem FIBA has with South Korea is the fact that they are not even close to being able to host international competitions. South Korea has not hosted a FIBA competition since 2007 when they hosted the FIBA Asia Championships for Women. In fact, South Korea has only hosted two FIBA competitions in the last 20 years. Hosting a FIBA event requires a strong organization with a great a strong local basketball product. FIBA sees the potential in South Korea and are trying to push the KBA to meet their expectations.

Finally, having all basketball organizations under one wing would mean better communication, and better advancement for basketball in South Korea. It would mean that the amateur players under the current KBA could use the professional training and coaching of the KBL. The KBL and WKBL do provide players and coaches for the national team, and that’s the sole purpose of the league, so one could argue that having all of these organizations separate is inefficient. But those who know the Korean basketball system well argue that a problem with deciding who is in charge would arise. The head of KBA, and the heads of the two professional leagues would all look to be the strongest voice in the room if all three were to merge.

KBA’s managing director, Kim Dong Wook, recently commented on the letter saying, “We’ve received a lot of recommendations from FIBA and we deeply understand their concerns. We are trying very hard to meet their demands.” He also noted that unlike Japan, South Korea won’t face any disciplinary action from FIBA.

Kim also went on to say that in the United States, the NBA and the NCAA work under a different wing than the United States basketball federation and have no problems of communication with each other or to FIBA. But when it comes to national basketball rankings, South Korea ranks 28th in the men’s category, and 12th in women’s, a far stretch from the United Sates who rank first in both categories.

According to a person familiar with the situation, South Korea is one of six countries in Asia who have received this letter from FIBA indicating that FIBA is making a strong push to regulate basketball in Asia to improve its development.

Nick Bedard (@bedardnick) is the editor-in-chief of Basketballbuddha.com.

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