After 75 years since its inception, the NBA is recognized as a global league. Partly through strategy, and partly through good fortune, the NBA has become extremely popular throughout the world. Many international players have found their way, and their success, in the NBA, with more foreign-born players in the league than ever. The NBA has strategized to capture revenue in various markets throughout the globe with several campaigns, deals, and initiatives, all to boost their brand as a global game.
Does the NBA play outside the USA? Yes, NBA teams often play games outside of the US and Canada. These games occur in the pre-season as well as in the regular season, in various regions throughout the globe. These games may also be against other NBA teams or other professional basketball teams. The first NBA Global Game was played in 1984 in Mexico, and the most recent NBA Global Game was played in 2020 in France, with a recent pause due to the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The NBA will return to Paris in January 2023 when the Bulls will take on the Pistons
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What are the type of matchups that occur during international NBA games?
NBA games that are played outside the US and Canada first started as pre-season exhibition games. These games are either played against other NBA teams, or foreign basketball teams, which may be professional clubs or national teams. Later on, the NBA also introduced some regular-season games to be played outside the US: the first regular-season game played internationally was in 1990, in Tokyo, Japan, involving a two-game series between the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns. Regular-season games played internationally are less frequent than pre-season exhibition games.
A bulk of the NBA’s international games are pre-season exhibition games played against European professional basketball teams from the EuroLeague, as part of what is called the EuroLeague tour. Not all of these games are played in Europe; since 2016 onwards, most of these games have occured in the US and Canada, at NBA team stadiums.
Most of these games played against foreign clubs feature the NBA team winning; however, this is not always the case. Most international exhibition games are played with low intensity and more so as a spectacle for fans, but games can also become competitive and intense, especially if the foreign teams are having a good performance. Regular-season games played outside the US usually feature a similar intensity as normal games in the US, although there is a lot more marketing and spectacle around the matchup to entice foreign fans.
What countries/regions are international NBA games played in?
NBA games not played in the US are played in various countries and regions around the world, including both inter-NBA games and games against foreign teams. Some of the most popular destinations include Mexico, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Russia, Japan, China, and Brazil, among other destinations. The NBA is scheduled to make its first appearance in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in October 2022, to feature 2 preseason exhibition games between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks.
Complete List of Regular Season NBA Games held outside of the Americas
|Date of Game||Road Team||Score||Home Team||Location of Game|
|2 November 1990||Phoenix Suns||119–96||Utah Jazz||Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, Tokyo|
|3 November 1990||Utah Jazz||102–101||Phoenix Suns||Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, Tokyo|
|6 November 1992||Seattle SuperSonics||111–94||Houston Rockets||Yokohama Arena, Yokohama|
|7 November 1992||Houston Rockets||85–89||Seattle SuperSonics||Yokohama Arena, Yokohama|
|4 November 1994||Portland Trail Blazers||121–100||Los Angeles Clippers||Yokohama Arena, Yokohama|
|5 November 1994||Los Angeles Clippers||95–112||Portland Trail Blazers||Yokohama Arena, Yokohama|
|7 November 1996||Orlando Magic||108–95||New Jersey Nets||Tokyo Dome, Tokyo|
|9 November 1996||New Jersey Nets||82–86||Orlando Magic||Tokyo Dome, Tokyo|
|7 December 1997||Houston Rockets||108–106||Dallas Mavericks||Palacio de los Deportes, Mexico City|
|6 November 1999||Minnesota Timberwolves||95–100||Sacramento Kings||Tokyo Dome, Tokyo|
|7 November 1999||Sacramento Kings||101–114||Minnesota Timberwolves||Tokyo Dome, Tokyo|
|30 October 2003||Los Angeles Clippers||100–109||Seattle SuperSonics||Saitama Super Arena, Saitama|
|1 November 2003||Seattle SuperSonics||124–105||Los Angeles Clippers||Saitama Super Arena, Saitama|
|4 March 2011||Toronto Raptors||103–116||New Jersey Nets||The O2 Arena, London|
|5 March 2011||Toronto Raptors||136–137||New Jersey Nets||The O2 Arena, London|
|17 January 2013||New York Knicks||102–87||Detroit Pistons||The O2 Arena, London|
|16 January 2014||Brooklyn Nets||127–110||Atlanta Hawks||The O2 Arena, London|
|12 November 2014||Houston Rockets||113–101||Minnesota Timberwolves||Mexico City Arena, Mexico City|
|15 January 2015||New York Knicks||79–95||Milwaukee Bucks||The O2 Arena, London|
|3 December 2015||Boston Celtics||114–97||Sacramento Kings||Mexico City Arena, Mexico City|
|14 January 2016||Toronto Raptors||106–103||Orlando Magic||The O2 Arena, London|
|12 January 2017||Indiana Pacers||112–140||Denver Nuggets||The O2 Arena, London|
|12 January 2017||Dallas Mavericks||113–108||Phoenix Suns||Mexico City Arena, Mexico City|
|14 January 2017||San Antonio Spurs||105–108||Phoenix Suns||Mexico City Arena, Mexico City|
|7 December 2017||Oklahoma City Thunder||95–100||Brooklyn Nets||Mexico City Arena, Mexico City|
|9 December 2017||Miami Heat||101–89||Brooklyn Nets||Mexico City Arena, Mexico City|
|11 January 2018||Boston Celtics||114–103||Philadelphia 76ers||The O2 Arena, London|
|13 December 2018||Chicago Bulls||91–97||Orlando Magic||Mexico City Arena, Mexico City|
|15 December 2018||Utah Jazz||89–96||Orlando Magic||Mexico City Arena, Mexico City|
|17 January 2019||New York Knicks||100–101||Washington Wizards||The O2 Arena, London|
|12 December 2019||Dallas Mavericks||122–111||Detroit Pistons||Mexico City Arena, Mexico City|
|14 December 2019||San Antonio Spurs||121–119 (OT)||Phoenix Suns||Mexico City Arena, Mexico City|
|24 January 2020||Milwaukee Bucks||116–103||Charlotte Hornets||AccorHotels Arena, Paris|
|19 January 2023||Chicago Bulls||vs.||Detroit Pistons||AccorArena, Paris|
When was the first international NBA game played?
The first international NBA game played outside of the US was held on September 8th, 1974, in Tel Aviv. The pre-season exhibition matchup took place between the Washington Bullets, who were the reigning NBA champions, and the Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv. A close competition led to a surprising result: the Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv defeated the Washington Bullets 98-97.
When was the most recent international NBA game played?
The most recent international NBA game that was played outside of the US was played on October 5th, 2016, in Barcelona, Spain. The matchup took place between the Oklahoma City Thunder and FC Barcelona. The Thunder barely defeated FC Barcelona, 92-89.
Why does the NBA participate in international games?
The NBA has a business interest in the international market, and has made huge strides in capturing revenue and attention in many global markets. One reason why the NBA plays outside the US is to engage their international fans who would otherwise not have a chance to watch their favorite players and teams play live. This engages current fans and attracts new ones, as well as opening up the NBA to sign lucrative deals in that market. These deals, from merchandising to TV rights, bring in significant revenue to the NBA as well as expand their global reach.
Beyond the obvious and significant financial benefit the NBA receives from playing games overseas, there is also the effect of the strengthening of the sport of basketball around the world. The NBA runs a program called Basketball Without Borders, featuring top NBA coaches and players participating in basketball camps in various countries around the world. These camps are intended to improve the skills of the local talent, who then grow up to play basketball professionally; the best of them may also make their way to the NBA. And it has worked: the NBA is as global as it has ever been, bringing in revenue from around the world, growing international interest, and building up talent who also become stars in the NBA.
What other exhibition games have NBA teams participated in?
The NBA used to play exhibition games during the preseason games against American Basketball Association (ABA) teams from 1971 to 1975. A total of 155 exhibition games were played by NBA teams and teams from the other American professional league: the ABA teams were victorious in the overall head-to-head record, with 79 wins to the NBA’s 76 wins. These games were highly intense, and were played with a mixture of NBA and ABA rules. Eventually the ABA merged into the NBA, no doubt influenced by their extensive exhibition games.
Exhibition games have been an excellent way for NBA players and teams to engage with their huge fan base outside of the United States and Canada. From providing the experience for fans to see some of the biggest NBA stars playing games against local professional teams, meet-and-greets and other fan experiences, as well as camps to promote and elevate the game of basketball around the world. The NBA has also benefited as well, from increased global revenue and brand image, as well as influx of international talent elevating the level of play in the NBA. Overall, international games have been a success for just about everyone involved.