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Asia Minute: NBA Broadens Its Asian Reach

AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade
Indiana Pacers player Amida Brimah in action during match against Sacramento Kings at the NBA India Games 2019 in Mumbai, India, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.

Professional basketball is making a splash in Hawaii this week. The Los Angeles Clippers played the Houston Rockets last night—and on Sunday they will host the Shanghai Sharks at the Stan Sheriff Center at the University of Hawaii. The NBA is also active in Asia this week and next week.

The Sacramento Kings tip off against the Indiana Pacers in Mumbai over the next couple of days — playing two pre-season games.

It’s the first time any NBA teams have played in India.

The NBA has long taken its show on the road elsewhere in Asia — starting with its first regular season game in Japan nearly thirty years ago. The league started playing pre-season games in China 15 years ago, Taiwan hosted one ten years ago, and Manila did six years ago.

Next week, teams will play in Japan and China.

India is a huge potential market for the NBA, but it’s also got some real differences from those other destinations. Many in the local media have written about the dream of an “Indian Yao Ming” — the Chinese player who went on to a hall of fame career in the NBA. 

Meanwhile, there’s the matter of generating television viewing interest. You can watch NBA games in India, but it’s not as popular as other sports — especially cricket.

It’s a different story in the Philippines, where negotiations are down to the wire for the rights to broadcast this NBA season.

In Japan, the league signed a deal two years ago with e-commerce giant Rakuten for exclusive digital broadcast of live games.

Rakuten also spent an additional 60-million dollars for a three-year jersey deal with the Golden State Warriors to put a small patch of its corporate logo on the uniform.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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