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Patrick Baumann's legacy lives on through inspiring FIBA World Basketball Summit speech

MIES - Patrick Baumann passed away tragically at the weekend but his legacy lives on thanks to his innovative thinking, tireless work ethic and unwavering commitment to making basketball the world's biggest sport community that were the driving forces behind his successful tenure as the third FIBA Secretary General.

This determination and passion to see his beloved game achieve its full potential were on full display when Baumann gave the opening address at the first-ever FIBA World Basketball Summit in Xi'an, China on October 3.


 He presented the key factors which lead to success for national federations, while also stressing the importance for all of basketball's stakeholders to work together, as members of one same team, in order to achieve FIBA's main mission of growing the game.

"We have a vision: we want basketball to become the most popular sport community in the world. I think we are on the good road to making this happen, starting here in Xi'an and ending up in L.A. in 2028," he said. "Today basketball is a global game. It is the first sport, worldwide, among indoor sports."

For Baumann, the most obvious way to achieve this starts in one's own country.

"When you want to see a game, a sport, growing, the driving force is when the name of the country is written here (he moved hand across his chest) in any sport. Basketball is no different," he argued. "The national team is the driving force. Of course, you don't have a national team without many things behind it, but it is the driving force. It talks to the core fans, but it also talks to the people that usually may not follow basketball on a day-to-day basis. It grows the base of those that love basketball and it follows you if your national team is successful."

It is for this very reason that he headed up the years of efforts which led to the FIBA Men's National Team Competition System - and as part of this the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers - coming to fruition.

"That's why you see now with the Qualifiers that you have 80 countries that play simultaneously around the globe, on five continents, that try to qualify for the World Cup," he explained. "That is a huge exposure for basketball, something that is difficult to replicate unless it is a national team. As in football, the national team is core."

While FIBA is the driving force behind all of this, Baumann was also quick to point out the part and responsibilities that fell to the National Federations in order to have it be a success for all involved.

"So what is the role of a national federation?" he asked rhetorically. "It is certainly to protect, promote and drive its national team. This is key. If you don't do that, if our national federations don't work, then we're not going to be successful and won't be the most popular sport in the world. Now this doesn't happen from one day to another, it requires a lot of work. It requires a lot of discussions. It requires going over some of your fears, some of the obstacles, some of the difficulties that you will face whether you are in China, or Switzerland, whether you are in Mali, or whether you are in South America, or in Papua New Guinea. It's all the same. 

"There are in my opinion 10 success factors. First, if you don't do things with a little bit of passion and work then it's not going to work. You need energy, motivation (#1). You need to wake up in the morning saying 'I want to do basketball. I want it to be the most popular sport. I want to drive it wherever I am. Whatever the problems are, it's about that ball. But taking that ball, dribbling down the court and scoring.

"Energy and motivation is a must, but it's not everything. It's also about having a plan and executing it (#2). When you go into a game, you want a game plan. And that is not different to being a leader in a national federation. Too often we see things just being driven by election processes, by political processes. But it's about having a plan that goes even beyond your own cycles."

Baumann went on to indicate that a national federation's work doesn't just start and end with what goes on in house. It is also about its relationship with various stakeholders and partners.

"You've got motivation, you've got a plan, you want to execute. And then, you look out the windows of your offices, and you see plenty of basketball stakeholders, all of them having a different plan, a different idea and a different objective," he said. "That is suddenly the most difficult obstacle that you will face: how to make all of them believe in your plan. But it is crucial. It's about respecting all of your stakeholders (#3), it's about integrating them. It's about bringing them in your house. And that is the most difficult. As the game grows, interests of the individual stakeholders will grow and they might not always be the same that you have. So this is something that is extremely important to work on."

"Players, first and foremost, need to be protected," Baumann highlighted. "But then it's about clubs, about the leagues that want to grow, that may have a bit of a shorter-term view than you as a national federation leader that has a vision of 10 to 20 years down the road to be an Olympic champion in basketball and to have basketball as the most popular (sport) in your country."

 Another key aspect is for National Federations to ensure Government and National Olympic Committee (NOC) support (#4).


With so much to consider in the here and now, it's easy to forget looking down the road. Baumann, wisely, cautioned against leaving the future to later.

"There is nothing more important than investing in our youth and our coaches (#5). Sometimes the lack of a certified trainer is a big handicap for many countries," he acknowledged. "Coaches, it's not just about coaching the basketball skills. You need to be good at coaching the basketball skills. But the other one, you need to instill that passion for basketball. It's there where you will fabricate your new, your future talents that will one day be NBA champion, champion with their national teams or local champion. That is key - invest in these coaches, invest in these kids. We have to prepare the next generation, not only on the court, but also off the court."

"Another important piece that is clearly key for success for a national federation is when you look beyond your own borders (#6). There is no easy solution, but if you go out and meet in places like this, you can learn, take the best practice and try to adjust them to what you need in your own country."

He also stressed the value of striving for stability (#7) and embracing digital (#8) to bring more fans to the game.

Baumann also advised to always have everything come back to bare essentials and the game itself.

"Sport should always stay first (#9). A league may have a financial incentive, yes, but you as a federation may need to remind them that we need to reinvest in sport," he cautioned. "And if some people in our family are using basketball to make money, that is not a problem in and of itself if you can coordinate and make sure that whatever they invest into our sport is going to grow it globally or in a particular country."

Baumann encouraged the need to embrace change rather than fear it, taking FIBA as a primary example of this.

"We should change ourselves. We should continue to evolve (#10). The structure that FIBA has had since 1932 is not going to work until 2028. It has to be adjusted, it has to be adapted to the modern world," he said. "It has to be in a place and that also happens at national federations. Reinvent yourself, find new ways of being organized. Integrate all of your stakeholders. Bring in new disciplines as we did with 3-on-3, even if it shakes up the tree, shakes up our beliefs. It's important to keep evolving because if we don't, others will and we won't reach our goal of becoming the number one sport in the world."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) President Yao Ming and FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann pose with the FIBA Basketball World Cup trophy

Looking ahead to 2019 and the first-ever 32-team edition of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, Baumann spoke of how he did not see it as a culmination point but a part of something much bigger.

"We have a World Cup coming up next year but it's not the end line, the objective. It's just a part of the journey and that's how we think China should look at the World Cup, a part of a journey towards greater success," he explained.

Baumann's hunger for basketball to fulfill its potential did not focus or limit itself to the men's game or the traditional version of the sport. 

"It's also about women's basketball, about youth basketball, or it's about 3x3," he indicated. "3x3 is not the strange animal that's in the family. It's now our second discipline, one that is going to be at the Olympic games.  All continents were present in the Women's World Cup Quarter-Finals, that means the women's game is becoming truly global. As we know in all sports, you need time to create a generation of talents, time to create structures, time to be organized." 

Last but not least, recalling the theme of the Summit - Building the future of basketball together - Baumann called out to all basketball stakeholders to be involved, be engaged and do their part in growing the game.

"This is very dear to my heart. We are and will always be a team sport. Team means we will do it together."