TORONTO — As part of the All-Star Weekend festivities in Toronto, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the media on various topics prior to Saturday evening events held for the first time outside of the United States in 65 years.
The most discussed topic was NBA’s global growth and the possibility of hosting a future All-Star game outside of North America.
“This is our first All-Star Game outside of the United States, and I think it’s an important moment for this league,” said Silver to hundreds of media members.
“We haven’t crossed an ocean yet to play an All-Star Game, but who knows what the future holds for the NBA.”
When asked by Xinhua to elaborate on his comment, Silver believes that if it were to happen, the most likely destination would be in Europe due to the proximity from North America.
“I think getting to Asia during an All-Star break would be that much more difficult than traveling to Europe in an All-Star break,” Silver explained.
“If we do get to the point where we believe we can experiment with playing an All-Star game outside of the US and Canada, I think in the first instance we probably would not be looking to go to Asia.”
Having played a total of 158 international games, including 20 regular season games, hosting an All-Star game outside of North America would be the next step for the league to continue growing their brand internationally.
Without providing an exact timeframe, Silver said that “it’s not going to happen in the next two, three, four years, but I think down the road it could be a really exciting element for the NBA.”
Silver was also asked about Kobe Bryant’s impact on the game’s global expansion over the last decade.
“I was in China with him for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. That was amazing the number of people he touched,” Silver said of the 18-time All-Star.
“He made a decision that he wanted to get out and about (during the Olympics), the number of events he went to, the amount of time that he takes personally blogging with Chinese companies, directly to Chinese fans that he has a relationship with,” Silver added.
The 37-year-old Bryant announced earlier in the season that this will be his final season in the NBA.
To wrap up the media event, the NBA chief was asked about how he managed to convince China’s Yao Ming to attend the All-Star Weekend in the middle of the Lunar New Year celebrations.
“I was over in China in October and we invited him then and he said let me check my schedule and I’d love to be here. Honestly, there wasn’t much more to it than that,” said Silver.
Earlier in the day, Yao served as an honorary coach in a Special Olympics game that featured Special Olympic athletes playing in a demonstration game with former NBA and WNBA players.
“Just an incredible moment, there was Yao coaching on the sidelines and motivating those kids,” said Silver. “I mean, that’s who he is.”
Despite Yao’s career having only lasted eight seasons, Silver believes that Yao’s global impact on the league could be the most ever.
“He’s truly a global basketball icon. I mean, his career was cut short, and I think he didn’t achieve everything he wanted to the floor,” said Silver.
“I have no doubt that over a long life, he’s going to end up probably having as great an impact on this game as anyone who has ever played.” PNA/Xinhua/northboundasia.com