LONDON, England -- American basketball is planning to create up to five new European franchises who would compete for the NBA Championship, according to a report by Sports Illustrated.
NBA stars such as Kobe Bryant may soon be seen on a regular basis in Europe.
The astonishing claims come hard on the heels of plans by the football's English Premier League to play matches overseas and underline the growing trend of globalization in major sports leagues.
This was further evidenced by Super Bowl champions New York Giants playing a regular NFL season game against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in London, but the NBA's leaked plans go far beyond that.
A report on the Sports Illustrated Web site, says NBA commisioner David Stern will reveal his proposals on the eve of the All-Star Game in New Orleans this weekend.
The plans are understood to include the formation of a European division with five new teams in major markets.
The teams would play a full 82-game schedule and compete for the NBA championship.
It is not the first time that Stern has entertained the concept of overseas expansion.
He broached the idea in 2003, saying at the time that the league would look into European expansion within a decade.
Those plans were scrapped, however, with the NBA instead focusing on developing its relationship with China and other emerging basketball markets.
The number of European and overseas players has steadily increased in the NBA and basketball enjoys a particularly high profile in Spain, France, Italy, Greece and the Balkans.
The NBA has played regular-season games in Japan and Mexico, and played exhibition contests this season in London and Rome.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is doubtful for Sunday's All-Star game with a damaged finger.
Bryant, who dislocated his right pinkie last week, scored 29 points in 35 minutes in Wednesday's 117-92 win at Minnesota.
Bryant sat out the fourth quarter and had the finger X-rayed after the game. E-mail to a friend