NBA expands global sphere of influence

Graphic by Kate Carroll

Graphic by Kate Carroll

Story by Jack Meltsner, Sports Editor

When I think of the Bahamas, an image of someone relaxing by the beach sipping a piña colada immediately pops into my head. Die-hard Sacramento Kings fans envision Buddy Hield’s struggle instead. Hield, who is from the Bahamas is currently a shooting guard in the NBA for the Kings and was drafted in 2016 out of the University of Oklahoma.

However, Hield’s childhood did not consist of piña coladas or relaxing by the beach. Instead, Hield spent his free time in his driveway shooting a basketball at a milk crate nailed to a piece of plywood. Stories like this are examples of the NBA’s successful efforts to expand worldwide through globalization.

The NBA has always tried to expand its borders and give worldwide basketball fans the opportunity to see their favorite players in action. In 2004, the NBA began the NBA China Games, which was a homecoming of sorts for the Houston Rockets’ star big man Yao Ming. The 7-foot-6-inch Ming was the NBA’s first great Chinese player. He now leads the NBA’s impact and infiltration in China through games like these. The NBA China Games were so well attended that the NBA has scheduled pre-season games in China every year since. Along with China, the NBA has held both preseason and regular season games in the Bahamas, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, London, Brazil, the Philippines, Israel, Russia, Germany and Japan. This global initiative has inspired young kids in these nations to idolize NBA players and reach for the stars, setting goals to become NBA players themselves.

In the same way, basketball’s popularity in Europe has increased rapidly due to the growing respect and success of the Euroleague. The Euroleague is a professional basketball league made up of teams from Turkey, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Montenegro, Russia, Spain, Greece and Lithuania. Pointing to the NBA as inspiration, the Euroleague has made an impact on youth throughout the continent of Europe. For example, Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and German forward Dirk Nowitzki grew up watching the Euroleague, but came stateside to chase their dreams of playing in the NBA, eventually becoming perennial All-Stars.

Another program which shows the NBA’s worldwide impact is Basketball Without Borders, which is a global basketball development and community outreach program led by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) along with the NBA. It began in 2002 with the goal of giving children in Africa world class instruction and insight from current and former NBA players. Many professional players have graduated from this program, none more notable than Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid and Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam. Graduating in 2011 and 2012, these Cameroonians have inspired young African basketball players across the continent to go to America and chase their dreams of playing in the NBA.

All of these efforts have made an impact beyond the game; bringing people together around the globe, while giving people something to love regardless of color, orientation or gender. Other professional American sports leagues should learn from the NBA and take their sport overseas and around the world.