There is no bigger supporter of globalizing the NBA brand than David Stern. When he steps aside as commissioner in 2014 and hands everything over to Adam Silver, Stern is expected to stay on as a consultant with the league in some role specifically to grow the game around the globe.
With all that, it should come as no surprise that when David Stern was on ESPN radio with Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Rusillo and was asked if there would be an NBA team in Europe in the next 20 years he was glowing.
“I think so. I think multiple NBA international teams. Twenty years from now? For sure. In Europe. No place else. In other places I think you’ll see the NBA name on leagues and other places with marketing and basketball support, but not part of the NBA as we now know it.”
This has been Stern’s passion, we will see if Silver has the same passion for it. Of course, what really will determine this is if the NBA owners can make more money by having them.
As Stern himself has said before, the only way this works logistically is to have a European division of the NBA, likely made up of existing franchises (big names such as FC Barcelona, CSKA Moscow and the like). You would need five teams, ones which would play each other and come over to the states, plus get visits from some NBA teams. And even then, the logistics are tricky. To say the least.
I think the second part of Stern’s answer becomes the more likely outcome — you have NBA affiliated leagues around the globe. Maybe the Spanish ABC league (the second best league on the planet) or other top leagues in Europe reach an affiliation deal. An NBA league in China seems a logical fit in a few years. But they would remain their own leagues with their own schedules and the like.
Even then… oh, we all know it comes down to if it makes the owners money. If that can be figured out they will find a way to make the logistics of anything work.