The NBA’s popularity has continued to grow in the US with more and more people discovering this exciting, fast-paced, high-intensity, high-scoring game. That growth is mirrored across the globe too, as the NBA’s worldwide fan base reaches record levels.
According to a recent report, the NBA has 2.1 billion followers globally across all leagues, team and player platforms. However, 70% are from outside the U.S. with the NBA League Pass seeing a record number of global subscribers – up 30% over last season.
The role of superstar Michael Jordan cannot be underestimated in the rise of the NBA internationally. This is a man who at the peak of his fame, transcended sports and international boundaries. From his unbelievable sporting prowess to his record-breaking achievements with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan was a marketing man’s dream, and drew the attention of sports fans the world over.
Thanks to his partnership with Nike, and the famous slogan ‘Be Like Mike’ there probably isn’t a country in the world that doesn’t have someone walking around with Jordan’s trademark Jumpman logo on their shoes or clothes. In many ways, Jordan did for basketball, what Tiger Woods has done for golf.
The 1992 Olympic Games
Many experts believe the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team was a pivotal moment in the explosion of the NBA internationally, taking the game to a whole new level. In Barcelona, the United States won all of its games with an average 43.75-point differential, showcasing their breath-taking skills to the world.
Their performances inspired kids around the world to take up the game, with international basketball federations seeing a wave of new fans eager to play and watch the game. The NBA saw its chance and started NBA clinics in countries around the world, training up players and coaches.
The growth of international NBA academies has not only created more awareness of the sport, but also created a rich source of future talent for the league.
“NBA Academy is a year-round elite basketball development initiative that provides top high school-age prospects from outside the U.S. with a holistic approach to player development and a predictable pathway to maximize their potential. The NBA Academy program includes academies across Australia, India, Mexico and Senegal for top prospects from their respective countries and continents.”
Sports betting is popular around the world as national regulations relax and betting becomes a more accepted leisure time for many. The NBA spreads at sportsbooks offer an exciting variety of markets for bettors worldwide, giving them a chance to have some skin in the game and feel closer than ever to the on-court action.
There’s no better example of the success of NBA global academies and the reach of the game of basketball, than in the makeup of today’s player rosters. There were 120 international players from 40 countries and six continents on opening-night rosters for the 2022-23 season. That includes a record number of players from Canada (22) and Australia (10) and a record-tying five players from Nigeria. All 30 NBA teams feature at least one international player and there has been at least one international player in the NBA Finals for the last 28 years.
The 2022 NBA Finals between Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics, saw six international players from five countries represented. The Celtics featured Al Horford (Dominican Republic), Nik Stauskas (Canada) and Daniel Theis (Germany). The Warriors featured Nemanja Bjelica (Serbia), Jonathan Kuminga (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Andrew Wiggins (Canada).
The growth in technology and the internet has not only allowed NBA betting to prosper, but allowed fans across the world to watch basketball with NBA League Pass, offering subscribers around the world, 24/7 access to the very latest NBA news, highlights, live TV, classic games, original shows and more.
The NBA has attempted to draw more viewers internationally by scheduling an increasing number of games during primetime hours in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This initiative has created a growing demand that has seen a rise in the number of games aired during these hours. Importantly, it has created traction within the fanbase and helped the NBA build a core following, resulting in this seasons NBA Finals being shown to fans in over 200 countries around the world.
The NBA has cleverly used social media to penetrate new international markets. Commissioner Adam Silver said. “Social media is a way we’ve been able to infiltrate those markets very quickly with young people in particular living on social media. They’re following individual player feeds.” These targeted social media campaigns have helped build the NBA brand and fanbase around the world.
In short, the NBA as is one of the most progressive and creative sports leagues in the world, enabling them to take risks and think beyond the U.S. and build a global audience and brand awareness, that continues to go from strength to strength.