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Headliners, marketing operations, championship project… How the NBA weaves its web internationally

While a new match is expected in Paris in January 2023, the NBA continues to increase its international presence. With its attractiveness, it has been able to export to all continents while retaining its historical identity.

In the country of Uncle Sam, it is indeed the athletes of the Old Continent who have dominated and attracted all the spotlight for several seasons. The golden generation of the 2000s, of the European trio Pau Gasol – Tony Parker – Dirk Nowitzki produced children who grew up quickly.

Since 2019, no American player has managed to win the supreme title of MVP – which honors the best player of the regular season. Greek Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo won the accolade twice in 2019 and 2020, before Serbian Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic sat on the throne in 2021 and 2022.

Their outsiders Luka Doncic (Slovenia/Dallas Mavericks) and Joel Embiid (Cameroon/Philadelphia 76ers) participate in this phenomenon of international influence in the NBA, where 109 non-American players currently play. No less than 39 countries are represented in the Great League.

Paris, the new European capital of the NBA

Enjoying a strong global audience (30% increase in global subscriptions to its official digital platform from League Pass), the NBA had to find the ideal area to set up its European nerve center. Long based in London where it has its offices, the American basketball league is gradually beginning its move to Paris.

In 2020, the NBA made the decision to organize a regular season meeting at the AccorArena in Paris-Bercy. A success that made NBA commissioner Adam Silver happy: “We are noticing the tremendous interest from people, who are still trying to buy tickets, from the media and from an unprecedented number of sponsors”he then explained.

A historic event that they will renew in January 2023 when the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons will settle in the City of Light.

Another highlight: the NBA is preparing for the long-awaited opening of its official store in Paris scheduled for the summer of 2022. 300 square meters of merchandising spread over three floors, which will be located at 20 Boulevard Saint-Michel (5th arrondissement), in right in the Latin Quarter between the Pantheon, the Sorbonne and Notre-Dame Cathedral. It will be the third NBA store in Europe after London and Milan. Note that Spain does not have an official store but an NBA Café in Madrid where basketball matches are broadcast.

A spearhead international program

Since 2001, the NBA has been working to develop its program Basketball Without Borders which organizes population awareness training camps initiated with FIBA. With a focus on improving basketball skills, these camps promote leadership, education, sportsmanship and healthy living through an HIV awareness and prevention campaign.

To date, the NBA – through its program BWB – has settled in 23 host cities in 20 countries. More than 2,300 participants from 120 different countries have taken part in these training camps since 2001. Four days where the best young talents aged 19 and under come together from Asia-Pacific, Europe , the Americas and Africa.

The two Cameroonians Pascal Siakam (left) and Joel Embiid (right) highlight the development of basketball in Africa. Dan Hamilton / PANORAMA

The NBA announced last week that the next edition of the Basketball Without Borders will take place at Sport Village Assago and Bocconi Sport Center in Milan, Italy, from Wednesday June 1 to Saturday June 4.

The NBA is tapping into new markets

In recent years, the NBA has always emphasized its globalization side of basketball, in particular by organizing preseason games abroad against local teams: Real Madrid in Spain, Olimpia Milano in Italy, Maccabi Tel -Aviv in Israel or Flamengo in Brazil. While Brazilians are more accustomed to the “jogo bonito” of football, they are also interested in basketball and especially in the American league, which closely monitors this growing market.

China is the NBA’s other major project. Through marketing and sponsorship contracts, several NBA players are closely linked to Chinese basketball powered by legend and former player Yao Ming, now Minister of Sports in Xi Jinping’s government. Friendly matches were also held in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Since 2019, the NBA has organized one regular season game a year in Mexico with the aim of increasing the place of basketball among their Latin American neighbors. They even went so far as to create a G-League (youth development championship) franchise based in Mexico: the Capitanes de Mexico.

Luka Doncic, Slovenian star of the Dallas Mavericks was present at the Mexico City game in 2019. Cary Edmondson/REUTERS

The same is true in India, where the NBA has been organizing preparation matches since 2019 under the impetus of the multimillionaire native of Bombay, Vivek Ranadivé, owner of the Sacramento Kings team. But also in Tokyo, Japan in October 2022 where the NBA took advantage of the arrival of the American-Japanese Rui Hachimura at the Washington Wizards to attack the Japanese market.

The United Arab Emirates will host teams from Milwaukee and Atlanta in October for two NBA preseason matches. These will be the first two meetings played in the Middle East between two NBA teams. “Hosting NBA games and events in Abu Dhabi is part of our drive to grow basketball around the worldsaid Mark Tatum, deputy commissioner of the instance. These matches are part of a multi-year agreement between the NBA and the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.

An NBA championship in Europe?

The NBA and FIBA ​​are reportedly working together to create a European conference. An agreement is even imminent according to brand. Like the WNBA, NBA Africa or the G-League, this division would be a third-party competition managed by the NBA.

The Spanish daily adds that nothing will be done without the approval of the national leagues. This project aims to become the biggest European basketball competition in history. A way also to increase the economy and the marketing of FIBA ​​clubs.

At present, seven clubs are said to be ready to join the project leaving the Euroleague and will have the heavy task of convincing the other owner teams including Baskonia, Barcelona and Real Madrid. A project similar to what we have seen with the Superleague in football.

The commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver has even already warned Jordi Bertomeu, current president of the Euroleague of his intention to create this European Conference with FIBA ​​and therefore to contact the big European clubs.

Last big point to settle for the birth of this NBA Europa: the rights of the Euroleague which belong to IMG. In 2015, this multinational sports events company signed a 10-year contract for 630 million euros ensuring the organization of the Euroleague.

Batum, Fournier, Gobert… The French in the NBA in pictures

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