The Nets are the NBA’s most international team. Its owners are, or shortly will be, European (Russia) and Asian (Taiwan). Its list of international jaunts since Mikhail Prokhorov bought the team include the NBA’s first regular-season game in Europe at London’s O2 Arena in 2011, an around-the-world preseason tour that featured a practice in Moscow and games in Shanghai and Beijing in 2014, and now two regular season games in Mexico City on Thursday (Thunder) and Saturday (Heat).
As Adam Silver told Brian Lewis, it’s no accident.
“The process is the teams rotate traveling internationally. But in the first instance we look for teams interested in making the trip, and all three wanted to play in Mexico City, the Nets in particular,” Silver said. “The Nets are usually the first to raise their hands to go internationally. They’re usually very eager.
“They’ve been to China with us, they’ve been to London, and now Mexico City. I credit team president Brett Yormark, who seems particularly interested in extending the Brooklyn Nets brand globally.”
It was always Mikhail Prokhorov’s intention to make the Nets an international brand and although that hasn’t worked out the way he wanted (along with a number of other things), he and they are not giving up.
“It’s hard to ferret out exactly what factor leads to popularity. Certainly results on the floor, country of origin or nationality of players,” Silver said. “But you can tell the work they’re doing is having an impact on merchandise sales outside of the US. We closely track digital interest, we see what websites get the most traffic, see what apps get the most use.”
Now with the addition of Joe Tsai, who’s about to close on the purchase of a billion dollar minority stake, the team’s reach will be greater. And while Prokhorov comes out of a mining and finance background, Tsai, as executive vice president of Alibaba, will add e-commerce and marketing.
“Most importantly the new partner — it hasn’t been finalized, but it’s out there — Joe Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba, the fact is that he’s someone who’s living in China, but very familiar with the Brooklyn Nets brand,” Silver said. “He’ll be the co-owner for several years, not controlling owner, [but] it speaks specifically to the interest in the Brooklyn Nets in China, and to the greater interest in the league.”
And it’s an opportunity for the team and its players. Even before Tsai, a native of Taiwan, bought the team, the presence of Jeremy Lin, the league’s only Asian American, gives the team great visibility in Asia. More than five percent of our traffic comes from Taiwan alone.
“It’s great for the Brooklyn Nets. It’s an opportunity for us to spread our word,” said Nets general manager Sean Marks, who is from New Zealand. “Now we go across the border to again spread the way we’re playing, spread what we’re doing.”
- Nets work hard to leave their mark all around the globe - Brian Lewis - New York Post