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SBD Global/January 11, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA To Hold Int'l Doubleheader On Thursday With Games In London, Mexico City

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The NBA "has never gone global quite like this," according to the AP. The league will play "somewhat of a unique doubleheader Thursday with games in London and Mexico City," the first time it will stage multiple int'l games in different countries on the same day in the regular season. The Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets are the new teams "getting to take what's become an annual trip to Britain," while the Phoenix Suns will be hosting the first of a "two-game trip south of the border." The NBA has played 165 int'l games dating to '78 and during the preseason has had multiple games on the same day from different countries. But this is "the first time doing it when the games count." NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum said, "We thought having two regular-season global games on the same day for the first time was another great way to celebrate the popularity of our game with fans around the world." Tatum said the league likes to "return to cities that are passionate about basketball." The game at London's O2 Arena is the seventh in the regular season dating to '11, when the NBA wanted to "increase its popularity in Britain" ahead of the 2012 Olympics. All have been sold out. Mexico "also was a preseason-only stop when the NBA first visited there 25 years ago." Now it "not only gets official games but this year two of them, as the Suns will host the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday and San Antonio Spurs on Saturday" (AP, 1/10).

STRONG COMMITMENT: ESPN.com's Eric Gomez reported the NBA's commitment to growing the game in Mexico and bringing its product to the country "has never been stronger." In '15, an NBA fact sheet "stated 13 million people follow the game within the country." Through the end of '16, an updated document "boasted a digital community of more than 1.2 million fans and followers across social media platforms alone." This week, Mexico City will host its third and fourth regular-season games since '14. NBA Mexico Managing Dir Raul Zarraga said, "There are more than 40 million people playing basketball in this country. We've confirmed that about 12.5 million people consume the NBA's content and entertainment in different formats." Despite no NBA franchise "currently having a Mexican-born player on its roster, recent exports like Jorge Gutierrez and Gustavo Ayon had a positive effect on the game's popularity in the country." As to why the NBA is "so focused on Mexico instead of say, Argentina or Brazil, where the league also is popular and where local circuits have managed to produce players the likes of Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Nene Hilario, among others," the reasoning "is simple: logistics." Zarraga said, "We have a close relationship with the government and the Mexican Institute of Sports. We plan activities all year that culminate with the [regular-season] games." In '16, the league held a Jr. NBA event where 1,500 children participated across three Mexican states. Later that year, more than 60,000 people attended the NBA3X event in Mexico City, where 164 amateur teams "battled it out" in a 3-on-3 tournament. The league has "secured multiple partnerships with big companies to expand its footprint in Mexico." ESPN broadcasts five weekly games, and Televisa provides "more than a dozen events" on over-the-air TV, including all-star weekend. Zarraga said that the league might "consider bringing games to other venues, such as Monterrey, a northern city that has long had an appetite for American pro sports" (ESPN.com, 1/10).
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