The evolution of the sports marketing world didn’t happen overnight, nor did it directly coincide with a specific event. There are however certain benchmarks, touchstones and signposts that, viewed through the lens of history, give us an better understanding of the world we live in today and how it came to be. Part III of this series looks at one event from the early 1990s, the USA Basketball “Dream Team” that participated in the Barcelona summer Olympics, to provide insight on the development of the NBA, and basketball in general, as a truly global sport.
The USA Dream Team
In 1988 the United States men’s basketball team finished with the bronze medal in Seoul, marking only the second time the U.S. had failed to win the gold any time they had participated in the competition. There would not be a repeat four years later. The U.S. decided to send their NBA stars to Barcelona, and in so doing made basketball, and by extension the NBA, into a global game. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and the rest of the NBA Dream Team were not merely competitors, they were the featured attraction in what amounted to exhibition games for the Olympics, and the greatest global marketing campaign the NBA had ever seen. But the other nations left Barcelona with more than autographs from David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Scottie Pippen. And when they returned home they soon found NBA games on TV, and U.S.-based players in their domestic leagues.
The next year, 1993, three foreign-born players were drafted in the NBA. In 2000 the number had jumped to 14 and by 2006 the number was 18, including the number one overall pick! In fact, three of the last six overall first picks have come from outside the U.S. Currently, NBA rosters feature 75 international players from 30 different countries and territories. NBA games and related programming are broadcast to 215 countries in 41 languages via 202 telecasters.