Overseas expansion was a passion of Stern’s, and his replacement, Adam Silver, has continued the NBA’s global outreach. The league annually holds games overseas, including today’s Knicks-Bucks contest.
The next major frontier is a team based in Europe – or more accurately, teams based in Europe.
Silver, via Owen Gibson of The Guardian:
It would be difficult for us to have one team in Europe. We’d have to put both feet down. That would mean having four franchises in Europe.
“We’re not there yet. I know that as much growth as we’ve seen, we have a long way to go before we can sustain four franchises in Europe,” said Silver, who has worked at the NBA since 1992. “On the other hand, I believe it’s our manifest destiny to expand.”
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For travel-related reasons, Silver’s plan makes a lot of sense. It’d be too difficult for American teams collectively to make that long trans-Atlantic flight for only one game 41 times per season. A single European trip per season for each team, playing several games, would be much more viable.
However, if that’s Silver’s intent, that will drastically delay any European expansion The infrastructure isn’t in place to support a single NBA team on the continent. It’ll take much longer for four arenas to be built and fan bases to be cultivated.
That said, I believe it will eventually happen. There are enough viable cities – London, Paris, Madrid, Rome and Berlin among them – for the NBA to find four locations. The league could even, depending how the political climate evolves in coming years, look to Russia’s Moscow or St. Petersburg. Sure, the goal seems distant now, but at one time, so did having four baseball teams in California.
As long as the NBA remains committed to expanding overseas, the league has the resources to make it happen.
Also, did Silver actually call it “manifest destiny”?