After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic, the NBA will once again relocate preseason and regular season matches in the coming weeks and months, and intends to further accentuate its globalization by investing in new markets.
“There are more markets that want matches than we can supply,” Mark Tatum, deputy commissioner of the North American Basketball League, told AFP.
“The world is vast. We have played in a lot of places, but there are still a lot of opportunities, ”he said, referring in particular to Germany, Italy and Greece as countries likely to host meetings.
“At some point we will be back in India,” added Tatum, who is also considering “preseason, regular season, games in Africa.”
This year, as a prelude to the next exercise which will begin on October 18, pre-season matches are planned in Japan and Abu Dhabi.
Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors, defending champions, will face the Washington Wizards, team where young Japanese star Rui Hachimura plays, on September 30 and October 2, in the Saitama Super Arena, located in the suburbs of Tokyo, where Team USA won Olympic gold last year against France in the final.
The Milwaukee Bucks of Giannis Antetokounmpo, champions in 2021, and the Atlanta Hawks will play the very first matches of NBA teams in the United Arab Emirates on October 6 and 8. “They have a world-class facility. They know how to do it right,” Tatum said.
As in the 2019-2020 season, the last before the pandemic, Mexico City and then Paris will host a regular season game. The Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs will meet in Mexico on December 17, the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons will face Bercy on January 19.
– “Bringing cultures together” –
“For (Frenchman from Detroit) Killian Hayes, playing in his home country is going to be great,” said Tatum, who expects NBA fans to flock to Paris from all over Europe. to also see two-time All-Star selection Chicago Montenegrin Nikola Vucevic.
Nearly 70% of Internet users who follow the NBA on social networks are outside the United States.
And although TV broadcasts of matches were already watched by fans in 214 different nations and in more than 50 languages last season, Tatum says relocating matches is “an important part” of the “business strategy”.
“There’s nothing quite like watching a live match for the hundreds of millions of fans around the world. It’s a way for us to bring cultures, people and our fans together.”
In total since 1978, the NBA has scheduled 205 matches in 20 different countries, outside of American and Canadian cities.
China has long been one of the NBA’s main markets, until the diplomatic incident in October 2019, sparked by a tweet in support of Hong Kong protesters from Daryl Morey, then leader of the Houston Rockets.
The NBA, which had refused to sanction Morey, arguing that freedom of expression was an immutable principle, suffered heavy losses from the crisis as Chinese authorities ceased broadcasts until March this year.