NBA Aims To Increase League's International Footprint Through Global Games
Over the last decade, the NBA has made "lucrative inroads into dozens of countries, including China, which has 78 million people who follow the league on social media," according to Stuart Leavenworth of MCCLATCHY. The league "now wants to go further, not only in China, but in India," the world’s second-largest consumer market. On Friday night in the biggest city of the world’s most populous country, thousands of Shanghai hoops fans streamed into an arena that "resembles a giant space saucer, ready for a fan-appreciation night" hosted by the NBA. As the players take the court, the Chinese fans "whoop, wave jerseys, scramble for autographs and pose for selfies." Who "is in town? LeBron James? Kobe Bryant?" No, it is a "warmup for an exhibition match Sunday between the Brooklyn Nets and the Sacramento Kings, two teams with global aspirations." The league’s leading ambassador in China is former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, whose success "cemented the appeal of an already popular sport in China and turned the NBA into a household name." In both China and India, the league "faces challenges, and not just the usual ones of red tape, language barriers and pirating of merchandise." In China’s case, the government "has a monopoly over sports franchises and television, limiting potential revenue from broadcasting games." However, Terry Rhodes, who runs a Shanghai-based sports marketing agency, said that overall, the NBA "has set the pace for an international sports league." He added that it is possible the NBA "could eventually have its own branded league in China" (MCCLATCHY, 10/12).
BRAZILIAN HOMECOMING: The N.Y. TIMES' Vinod Sreeharsha reported the NBA "had chosen Brazil as the host as part of its Global Games initiative aimed at increasing support overseas, and the local fans were captivated by the story of a player returning home." Anderson Varejao, a Cleveland Cavaliers veteran and a Brazilian native who served as his teammates' concierge for much of the week, "helped take some of the spotlight off" James. Varejao said later "that there were two times I had to control myself not to cry" during the game because of the moment and the reception he received. On Thursday, Varejao "had helped lead a basketball clinic for children," and on Friday, "his mother and one of his sisters had attended a practice." Brazilian fans "also showed up at that practice," including Denis Sizenando, 34, who traveled from his hometown, Ribeirão Preto, about 500 miles away. Wearing a Cavaliers jersey, he said that "he had started following the team 10 years ago 'because of Varejao.'" Varejao "was clearly moved by all the support." He said that "10 years ago I could never imagine coming to Brazil to play an N.B.A. game here" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/11).