The National Basketball Association is better for the superstars the league has developed, and it is beneficial as a global marketing campaign develops. They are already playing games overseas, including the recent Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons game in Paris. Plus, there are other league initiatives to increase awareness and develop talent in other countries not known to produce elite basketball talent.
What helps is the fact that NBA picks can be made anywhere. While sports betting is slowly becoming widely accepted in the United States, there are many offshore sportsbooks that will gladly take people’s money, too. Being able to have players and teams to be invested in helps the sports betting industry as a whole and will allow for it to grow widely in hopes of legalizing it elsewhere.
League Stars Engaging Elsewhere
Having stars of different nationalities is making the game more popular elsewhere. That is seen during the Olympics and FIBA games as the competition to get out of pool play and throughout those tournaments is increasing. It is no longer the cakewalk that it once was, and playing a team led by Nikola Jokic or Luka Doncic creates some issues for traditionally strong countries, such as the United States, Spain, and elsewhere.
Jokic is from Serbia. The latter has won the last two Most Valuable Player awards in the NBA and is the frontrunner for a bid for a third. Jokic is nearly averaging a triple-double. At 6 foot 11, 284 pounds, he is strong and has great footwork. He is averaging 25.1 points 11.0 rebounds, and 9.9 assists per game.
Doncic is from Slovenia and is one of the top challengers to Jokic. Doncic is a great scorer, and he also gets it done as a rebounder and passer. That is indicated by his season averages of 33.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has an MVP award to his name. He is averaging 31.0 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, which each rank in the top five. The Greece native stands 6 foot 11 and is 242 pounds. He is an unstoppable force in transition.
Those are arguably the top three players in the league, with Americans LeBron James and Kevin Durant garnering similar attention. Though, there are several other stars who are not Americans. Rudy Gobert is from France, Joel Embiid is from Cameroon, Steven Adams is from New Zealand, and there are many other examples.
Embracing the Globe
Annually since 1991, there have been preseason games beyond the United States and Canada, including one in Milan in 1984. These have included Japan, China, Abu Dhabi, Brazil, England, Germany, and elsewhere.
Regular season games have been on and off since 1990. The global games took a break from 2004 to March 2011, with games in England and Mexico from 2011 to 2022. There have been two games in France, one right before the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down in 2020 and another in January of 2023.
In the most recent instance, Pistons’ young guard Killian Hayes was able to play in his homeland of France. It created a bit of familiarity as he was able to show his teammates around some different areas that are popular among tourists.
Expect the league to take its games to different countries as they try to expand and also afford the opportunity for its stars to play closer to home.
But the league also does a great job of marketing those stars to different continents. Remember Yao Ming’s dominance and how popular basketball was in China at the time. The sport is still popular there, but there isn’t a star to market specifically there.
Surprisingly, one of the countries with the greatest fanfare is the Philippines. While the game is wildly popular there, there have only been two players since World War II who are from the island country in Southeast Asia. They are Andray Blatche and current reserve guard Jordan Clarkson, who is having a great season for the Utah Jazz.
It will be interesting to see how the NBA continues its expansion into growing the game in other countries and how that impacts the sports betting and fantasy sports industries.