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Why the NBA pre-season matters

Sports writer, Lu Wang, talks about why to tune into the NBA pre-season. (photo/

At this time of year, the National Basketball Association and its teams play their preseason games, which are exhibitions that do not count toward regular-season standings. The games are important because they give fans a taste of the season to come and let coaches and team owners see what condition the various players are in. As a sportswriter noted, "Rotations are mostly irrelevant, effort is sporadic and the actual competition is an afterthought as decision-makers evaluate players individually in attempt to trim rosters." For example, Derrick Rose, a star of the Chicago Bulls, has shown through his spirited play that he has made a recovery from a knee injury that he suffered in the spring of 2012, giving optimism to fans about the Bulls’ chances this year. However, beyond giving a preview of the players' health, recently there has been another important purpose of the NBA preseason, which is to attract more fans in diverse locations. While the NBA is a well-known league, it lags behind the National Football League and Major League Baseball in measures such as revenue and attendance. As such, NBA officials need to find ways to bring more fans, and current efforts look like a smart marketing strategy. NBA teams have played this preseason in smaller cities such as Biloxi, Miss., and in other countries such as Turkey, with 28 percent of games being played in locations where the league does not have a team. According to one report, "the league increasingly sees the preseason as vital for spreading the NBA gospel at home and abroad."

The league has created a name for part of its preseason efforts, the "NBA Global Games," which involved eight preseason games in overseas locations. Also, two regular-season games will be held in international locations. In all, 12 teams will participate in the Global Games, and seven countries, including nations such as China, Brazil and the Philippines, where the NBA is already popular and hopes to keep building its audience. In fact, the Global Games are part of a broader international strategy for the NBA, which in 2013 has held 125 “International NBA” events in 27 countries. As a result of the strategy, the NBA is able to sell its merchandise, such as shirts and hats, extensively throughout 100 countries. Players such as Yao Ming, who came from China, have helped to give the game an international flavor.

It is hard to say whether the NBA could catch baseball and football in popularity. However, the league can claim a unique victory by becoming the most international of the three leagues. In fact, basketball is now the second-most popular spectator sport on a global basis after soccer. As such, the league has the most potential for growth because of the increasing number of middle class citizens in developing countries who now have disposable income to spend on merchandise and even on tickets to games. NBA players should get used to tougher travel schedules as they increasingly travel the world to be seen by fans.

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