Following our recent interview with Alton Byrd (VP of Business Operations, Long Island Nets), we asked him about the current state of basketball in the United Kingdom.
Alton played professionally in the UK between 1979 and 1997, for Crystal Palace, Murray International, Manchester Eagles, Glasgow Rangers, Kingston Kings, and Guildford Kings.
With Murray International, where he was also General Manager, Byrd led the team to 4 British championships, 5 Scottish championships, and the team’s first ever appearance in the second round of the European Champions Basketball Cup.
“I’ve had a chance to observe the league while I was there, then when I left, and now years after I left. I think there’s been a missed opportunity.”Alton Byrd
Q: I’m a Brit, I’m from England. You played your entire playing career in the UK and it was a legendary one at that. What are your views on the British game, is it developing well under the radar, is there a bit of a missed opportunity that hasn’t been built upon?
AB: “Obviously I played in the UK for 18 years, 19 years. I’ve had a chance to observe the league while I was there, then when I left, and now years after I left. I think there’s been a missed opportunity. I think our generation in the 80s and 90s created 100s of kids with British descent who played college basketball. Including a few that have played in the NBA. Like Luol Deng. Like Pops Mesah-Bonsu. There’s probably over 100 kids of British descent playing college basketball now in the US.
I’m saddened to see that the league isn’t more competitive, isn’t more financially sustainable, and quite honestly isn’t more commercially successful. I don’t quite understand why. Other than the fact that, and I’ve said this before, to have commercial success you got to have people who are commercially focused on creating a league that can sustain itself financially. What you have is some teams that do very well on a local level, Leicester, Newcastle. There are probably 3 or 4 teams that compete very well. Then the rest of the teams kind of tread water. Then there’s some teams that just can’t survive. I’m disappointed because I think that this league, especially in Britain, has every chance to be very competitive on the European landscape, and has missed the boat. Because, frankly, management, or because we have administrators with no commercial sense of what it’s going to take to make it work.”
Upon being asked whether he gets chance to return to the UK from time-to-time, Alton responded: “I tend to get there once or twice a year. Both of my children live in the UK”.
Alton went onto state that he still has British citizenship, and that Britain has a special place in his heart.
A special thank you goes to Alton for taking the time to speak to Call-Ups, and thank you goes to the Nets staff that arranged for the interview to take place.
If you missed our interview with the President of the Santa Cruz Warriors, Chris Murphy, you can check it out here.
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