Is There a Future for the NBA Overseas?

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This year’s NBA playoffs have had it all – exciting games, juicy storylines and a lot of star power. I’ve enjoyed the action so much that I’ve already ordered NBA LEAGUE PASS on for next season.

Apparently I’m not the only one who has been glued to the couch during the postseason. TV ratings for this season’s NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are up seven percent from last year.

But it’s not just Americans that are enthralled by the action.

According to Alicia Jessop of, the 2012 NBA Finals have seen a “large surge in international viewership” fueled by “the vast number of networks and online outlets that are televising the event.” This year, NBA fans in 215 countries will tune into The Finals on 90 international television, radio and online outlets broadcasting in 47 different languages.

Those are staggering numbers.

This begs the question: As the NBA continues evolving into a global enterprise, is it feasible that one day the league will have teams in Europe or other parts of the world? Ten years ago, this would have been an outlandish proposition to most people – and it still may be to some today.

However, NBA Commissioner David Stern is not one of those people.

In fact, Stern – who has been the chief executive of the National Basketball Association since 1984 – went as far as predicting that the league will have a five-team division in Europe within the next 10 years.

The globalization of the game has certainly created amarket overseas for NBA basketball. Along with a growing international interest in watching the game, the number of foreign-born players in the NBA (79) has tripledin the last two decades. In fact, several of these players have become superstars and household names. San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, who was born in Belgium and raised in France, is a four-time NBA All-Star and three-time NBA champion. German-born Dirk Nowitzki, the league’s MVP in 2007, led the Dallas Mavericks to their first-everNBA titlein 2011.

However, an NBA expansion overseas will not be a simple undertaking. There are a number of logistical issues that could be problematic with the addition of international franchises.The primary concern involves the extensive travel that would accompany such an expansion, with other potential roadblocks includingarena development, TV broadcast scheduling and team ownership.

At the end of the day, out of the four major North American sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB), the NBA is the only one with such a tremendous international influence. With the North American market tapped out, expanding to Europe, China or another viable country provides the NBA with an opportunity to not only experience exponential growth, but become the most powerful league on the planet.

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