However, aside from what happened on the court, the real story is that the NBA continues to expand into different countries as basketball grows in popularity.
To learn more about the inaugural Abu Dhabi Games and the league’s efforts to expand its audience worldwide, BasketballNews.com spoke with the Vice President of Global Strategy and Innovation at the NBA, Samantha Engelhardt.
First of all, is it nice for the league to be back on a global schedule after the pandemic? Logistically, how difficult was it to manage/plan and then get back to a work routine again?
Samantha Engelhardt: “We are delighted to have been able to resume global games for the first time in over two years. Playing games overseas is an important part of our year-round efforts to engage our passionate international fans. and grow the game worldwide. Planning for these games and surrounding events is a highly collaborative process between league and team employees, partners and our regional offices.
“In Japan and Abu Dhabi, we hosted four sold-out games, interactive fan events, NBA Cares community outreach initiatives and youth development programs that reached thousands of people. We are very pleased with the reception from fans in both markets and look forward to building on this positive momentum at our regular season matches in Mexico City and Paris.”
What has been the key to building a global fanbase over all these years?
Engelhardt: “There are a number of factors. This season marks 30 years since the ‘Dream Team’ captivated a global audience with their performance at the Barcelona Olympics. It’s remarkable how this team has inspired generations of fans. and players from around the world. We’re fortunate that in the years since, so many players from outside the United States have made an impact in the NBA and WNBA.
“In terms of our efforts, we have a three-pronged strategy to help grow the game of basketball globally: grassroots basketball development (creating opportunities for boys and girls from play the game), making NBA basketball more accessible to international fans on the devices and platforms they use most, and, as with Global Games, bringing the NBA experience to fans around the world. world through live games, interactive fan events and authentic merchandise.”
Why is this issue important to the league? And to what extent has the international influx of talent into the NBA furthered this goal of reaching fans outside the United States?
Engelhardt: “Our mission is to inspire and connect people everywhere through the power of basketball. Ninety-nine percent of NBA fans will never enter an NBA arena, and they consume our game entirely through some form of technology. It’s very important that we do everything we can to reach and engage these fans with the content and experiences they want, which is why we just launched a reimagined NBA app which does exactly that.
“And the level of international talent in the league has been critical to basketball and the continued growth of the NBA around the world. This will be the ninth straight season that we’ve had at least 100 international players in the league. And that n “It’s not just the quantity, but the quality. International players have never had such an impact on the NBA. Two international players – Serbian Nikola Jokić and Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo – have won the last four MVP awards. All these players spark interest and inspire people in their home countries and beyond.”