NBA going global for exhibition season
NEW YORK - David Stern is soon on his way to the Philippines and Taiwan. After that, it's off to Beijing and Shanghai.
His final months as commissioner are the NBA's boldest yet when it comes to playing internationally, and he thinks bringing the league around the globe will remain important long after he leaves office in February.
"Numerically, without question, to have 10 games this season, it's our most ambitious," Stern said of the schedule that begins this weekend.
The 76ers will leave for Europe on Thursday. They'll play at Bilbao, Spain, on Sunday and against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Manchester, England, on Tuesday.
There will be 12 teams playing outside the United States and Canada, the most ever, and the league will play regular-season games in two countries beyond those for the first time.
International growth, long a passion of Stern's, has become something much more: It's mandatory.
"If you listen to Coca-Cola or GE or the great brands - Samsung, Sony, Apple - increasingly more and more of their revenues and profits are going to come from outside the United States," Stern said. "The numbers make it clear, because there are 300-plus million people in the U.S. and we're approaching 7 billion outside the U.S."
The schedule opens Saturday with Oklahoma City playing Turkey's Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul, where Kevin Durant was MVP of the World Basketball Championship in 2010.
Indiana and Houston will face each other in the Philippines and Taiwan - the latter the home country of Rockets guard Jeremy Lin's parents.
The Lakers and Warriors will play twice in China, and Chicago will face Washington in Rio de Janeiro. The games that count include San Antonio against Minnesota in Mexico City in December, followed by Atlanta and Brooklyn in London in January.
The NBA played its first international game when Washington visited Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel in 1978, six years before Stern became commissioner. By the time he leaves, the league will have played nearly 150 of them, including 18 in the regular season.