NBA Hopes To Boost Russian Basketball Interest With Push From Nets Owner Prokhorov
The NBA is betting billionaire Brooklyn Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov "can give it an advantage as the league seeks to replicate in Russia its success in China," according to Jake Rudnitsky of BLOOMBERG. NBA Int'l President Heidi Ueberroth said that the NBA hired former IMG Worldwide Exec David Watts "as London-based vice president for Russia and former Soviet states." Prokhorov said, "We would actually love to see some regular-season games played in Russia, as we have currently in London. That would be my dream." Ueberroth said, "There's enthusiasm for big global events, from the FIFA World Cup to the Sochi Olympics. Russia is a top priority market for us." CSKA Moscow VP Natalia Furaeva said that the NBA needs to start its push with a national TV contract "to increase its relevance in the Russian market," where basketball's popularity ranks behind football, ice hockey and biathlon. Furaeva: "Any cooperation is more successful when it is a two-way street. Exhibition games are definitely interesting for Russian teams and fans." Prokhorov said, "Several top members of the government who love basketball" are willing to help promote the game in Russia. Former Portland Trail Blazers President Marshall Glickman, who advises Euroleague teams including CSKA at the G2 Strategic LLC consulting group, said, "Basketball in Russia needs to develop from the grass roots because a few very wealthy people are not enough to create a market. The NBA needs a presence, to show up and play games, and to get the product in the streets and the merchandise on the shelves" (BLOOMBERG, 6/3).