NBA stars ruminating over the option to bolt overseas this fall if the lockout persists are in for a nice check. Make that a reality check.
I can't help but laugh when hearing stories about Dwight Howard possibly competing in China next season and Deron Williams agreeing to play in Turkey. Can you imagine Howard or Williams, who are accustomed to private jets and five-star hotels, stuffing their long legs behind a coach seat on a flight in China? And someone needs to remind Williams there isn't a Ruth's Chris in Istanbul.
Don't get me wrong. China and Turkey are beautiful countries and wonderful vacation spots.
But this isn't a leisure trip or a two-week Olympics run. Professional basketball players who work overseas compete just as hard as their NBA counterparts without the lavish perks, eight-figure paydays and unrelenting media attention.
I haven't picked a side in this NBA lockout mess yet, but it's funny to think some NBA stars are willing to take less pay and perks overseas in the fight to get more at home.
Equally interesting is the fact that multi-millionaires like Williams want the structure of their jobs protected, but see nothing wrong with jeopardizing the jobs of current overseas American players.
NBA teams have 15 roster spots. Overseas teams generally don't allow more than four Americans per team.
A potential influx of NBA stars who'd normally be sipping mai tais this summer instead of preparing to fly to Thailand means veteran overseas players will have a harder time earning lucrative contracts. Recent overseas-bound players like Joey Rodriguez could also be impacted.
This subject hits a little closer to home because my brother, Chris Owens, has played overseas since 2003 after the Memphis Grizzlies cut him.
We chatted on the phone recently and I asked him if he ever felt that his job was threatened. His response surprised me.
"I think it's a win, win, to me," he said. "I think they need to see it and experience it."
Like getting pelted by hot coins. Turkish basketball fans are a passionate bunch and it's pretty common for aggravated fans -- particularly during rival games -- to take a lighter and heat a coin before throwing it at players on the court. In case you were wondering, it does burn a little, according to Chris.
But he'd take hot coins over rocks. While playing on the road in Greece, a fan threw a sharp rock at him which cut his back. Fans got so unruly that when the teams were cleared from the court, his teammates ran out with the opposing home team because "they weren't throwing rocks at them."
In the states, we've seen NBA fans get escorted out for cursing too much.
And forget about NBA-sized arenas. The University of Central Florida's 10,000-capacity arena is about as good as it gets in most countries, Spain being the exception. Hopefully, that arena has temperature control. During a road trip to Siberia, Chris played in a gym so cold that he could see his breath.
That doesn't include the language barriers, issues of teams not paying players on time -- or at all, the change in travel accomodations and the general cultural shock of living in places like Ukraine for nine months.
Perhaps the biggest change these NBA stars can expect is the actual game itself.
"I think guys think the level of competition is so much easier," Chris said. "But you're not gonna have the spacing on the floor to play one-on-one basketball."
NBA basketball favors stars. European-style basketball favors teams.
The opportunity to do what you love and get paid for it, be it in Timbuktu or Tulsa, is a blessing. But NBA stars who go abroad will soon learn that when it comes to playing professional basketball, there's no place like home.