94'x50': The Dimensions of a Global Game

Open Access
Valenta, Zachary
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Eric Robert Hayot, Thesis Supervisor
  • Janet Wynne Lyon, Honors Advisor
  • NBA
  • China
  • Spencer Haywood
My thesis, 94’x50’: The Dimensions of a Global Game, intertwines two parallel narratives of the past quarter century: the expansion of the National Basketball Association into a global sporting force and the ascendance of globalization as a buzzword, academic concept, and pressingly emergent material reality. More than coincident, these two stories have been mutually reinforcing, with the NBA carrying basketball and its financial seeds across the globe, as purposeful as globalization is haphazard. With this discussion of the past, present, and future of the league, I hope to demonstrate that the NBA has seen and acted in advance of its own financial actuality at nearly every stage of its existence and that this action has taken place on a stage wider and more promising than any other professional American sport. At the same time, my work also points to the way in which, even its moments of potential exceptionalism, first during the league’s financial and cultural renaissance in the 1980s and the present’s own portents, the NBA’s growth marks basketball’s gradual but decisive shift for the only original American game to a simultaneous indicator of America’s ongoing cultural pervasiveness and oncoming financial decline. It is through the economic booms and busts of the world economy that American professional basketball rises to the fore as its own national origins begin to fray and possibly tear loose.