The Russians are coming to the NBA -- billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is about to buy the New Jersey Nets (then promptly move them out of New Jersey... insert your own “told you he was a smart businessman” jokes here). This is not to mention guys who used to play for the former USSR, like Arvydas Sabonis, through today’s Russian in the game Andrei Kirilenko who have been part of the game.
“We are waiting for the Prokhorov deal to be completed because we want to work with him,” said Heidi Ueberroth, president of NBA International. “We see (Russia) as a strategic market, and the Prokhorov deal only serves to accelerate our plans...”
The NBA has long had a television deal in Russia, but now wants to develop the game on a grassroots level. The NBA has conducted youth basketball camps in Russia with former NBA all-stars A.C. Green and Scottie Pippen.
“We are focusing on growing the game, and it’s already been a key part of our strategy,” Ueberroth said. “It is really important for our partners like Adidas and Coca-Cola, and we are looking at all kinds of events and additional media opportunities.”
If the players want salaries to stay near where they are -- and owners want to turn a profit -- then these global markets matter more and more. Because they can’t just depend on the good people of New Jersey to keep buying tickets.