The NBA has been hosting regular-season games outside of the USA since 1990 when the Phoenix Suns defeated the Utah Jazz 119–96 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan. The Japanese city hosted the first eight NBA global regular-season games before the event moved to Mexico City and London was added to the schedule.
This year, the action headed to Paris for the first time where the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Charlotte Hornets, majority-owned by legendary former-NBA star Michael Jordan, 116-103. It was the 10th live regular-season game to be hosted in Europe and the 92nd overall including pre-season and exhibition matches.
The game proved a treat for French NBA fans who, in the Bucks, got to see one of the championship favorites in the NBA betting on bet365. Only the Lakers are priced lower than the team from Milwaukee.
After the success of previous events in London, organizers took a gamble switching the European game to France but they believed it was the right time to expose the sport to a new audience as popularity continues to grow on the European mainland.
Paris was an obvious choice thanks to its popularity as a tourist destination, the choice and quality of venues and the demand amongst fans in the city. The action took place at the recently refurbished AccorHotels Arena where nearly 16,000 fans were able to enjoy the full NBA experience in the neighborhood of Bercy.
France is the biggest European market for merchandise sales and the second biggest for NBA League Pass subscriptions. Spain, Germany and Italy could also be considered for future games with interest in the sport also very high in those regions.
What’s more, French basketball was on the radar recently when the national team beat the USA in the 2019 World Cup. As interest in French domestic basketball continues to grow, 2020 seemed like the perfect time to offer NBA action to the French fans.
European connections growing in NBA
This year, 60 European players out of a total of 108 foreigners were featured on the NBA rosters including last season’s MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece; 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert from France; and 2019 Rookie of the Year, Luka Dončić from Slovenia. The NBA has become a truly global sport and despite the growth of foreign leagues, it remains the pinnacle of the sport and the ultimate destination for the world’s top players.
With continued global expansion, there is a possibility that the NBA could be open to more non-USA franchises in the future. The Toronto Raptors are the only team currently located outside of the USA but there have been discussions to place a G League team and an NBA academy in Mexico City. The academy would cater to Latin American and Caribbean players. This could pave the way for a future Mexico City-based NBA franchise.