Back in the dark days before the Nets moved to Brooklyn and were looking for whatever exposure they could find, Brett Yormark would say that whenever the NBA called for volunteers, “we would raise our hands.”
It wasn’t just the need for exposure. It was about building a global brand commensurate with its new location in one of the world’s most diverse melting pots, Brooklyn, U.S.A. As a result, the Brooklyn Nets are the NBA’s most traveled franchises, basketball ambassadors and representatives of their owners, the first European (and first Russian) and first Chinese governors in the league.
It worked. According to the NBA, the Nets are now the most traveled NBA franchise in history with a fanbase that belies its overall lack of success on the court.
“The Nets specifically are incredibly willing to play games outside of the U.S. It’s the team that’s played the most games outside of the U.S., be it as Brooklyn Nets or obviously in the past as New Jersey,” George Aivazoglou, the NBA’s vice president, head of fan engagement, told Brian Lewis. “This trip shows that’s likely to continue. “Yes, that’s an indication obviously. We feel incredibly lucky to have the Nets — and teams like the Nets — to show that strong intention.
“That’s happening for a few reasons. Obviously, the team and the executives are very much internationally oriented as well; their marketing content is being created in [mind of a] global fan base. Also, it’s a great representation of Brooklyn in itself. Brooklyn is very diverse, a lot of different cultures and ethnicities and nationalities who live in Brooklyn. So I think they should embody that.
“And that shows in the numbers. The global fan base of the Nets is in the tens of millions. It’s [over] 50 million, which is tremendous. They’re in the top-3 teams that are followed here in France, and if we look at countries outside the U.S. in general, they’re in the top 10. So the plans and the work that the guys deliver have yielded tremendous results.”
Over the last 30 years, the Nets popularity is reflected in a lot of numbers, according to the NBA. Lewis notes the official NBA estimate of overseas fans is 53.6 million. They’re fifth in unique viewers from abroad on NBA League Pass, eighth in NBA App “favorites” and “follows” from outside the U.S., and ninth in Instagram followers from abroad. In China alone, which they’ve visited twice, the Nets now have 7 million followers on Weibo, the big Chinese social media site, nearly four times the number on Twitter and fourth in the league behind Lakers, Warriors and Rockets.
Now, the Nets are Paris to play the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday afternoon, New York time, and hit all the tourist spots...
The photo you've been waiting for.— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 9, 2024
Nets in Paris pic.twitter.com/JIc2USJZrz
It’s what happens when you raise your hands a lot. Brooklyn has previously played in Japan, China, England, Mexico, Italy and Israel and a lot of international teams over the years have visited Barclays Center from Turkey to Brazil. In fact, in October 2010, after Mikhail Prokhorov bought the team, the Nets made the NBA’s first round-the-world trip, stopping in Moscow for a practice with the new boss, then on to games in Shanghai and Guangzhou before returning home across the Pacific.
“You have to feel honored to be able to play in an environment like this,” Johnson said in Paris at the Nets first appearance Tuesday. “I think the cool thing about it is the globalization of the game. I played Team USA this summer and you see that the game is taken very seriously across the globe. So to be a contributing piece in that continued effort is something I don’t really take for granted.”
“I think the energy of the fans and playing a game that’s a little bit different than usual adds extra motivation, for sure,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “But we need the win regardless with where we are in the season and just understanding that every game matters.”
It’s also a way to give Parisians a taste of what they will see in July when the best basketball players in the world arrive for the 2024 Olympics when Team USA and Les Bleus, the French national team, will be among the favorites.
And it’s not just about the game. The Nets and Cavaliers are hosting community events like a coaching clinic run by Nets assistant coach Will Weaver who last year was head coach of Paris Basket, a top French league team, other clinics for young French men and women’s players, the opening of a pop-up Brooklyn-themed pizzeria, a visit to the NBA Team Store and and an orchestral tribute to Brooklyn’s Notorious B.I.G. at the Théâtre du Châtelet. There have been other moments not listed on the schedule but of equal importance...
Dennis and Doe getting some French lessons from the young French hoopers pic.twitter.com/f9YiVznaEW— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) January 10, 2024
For some Nets players, it’s their first visit to the City of Light, but the ever fashion-conscious Nic Claxton is not among among the Paris newbies. He was there last year.
“I just went this summer,” Claxton said. “It’s going to be good for the group, just the fashion, the drip, getting out there, doing some cool stuff as a team… just the vibe.”
The Nets could use some “vibe” after Sunday’s devastating loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, their third loss in recent weeks to less-than-exemplary NBA teams, the others being the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards. After all, being in Paris for all its glories will be mostly lost if the Cavaliers come away with the win in the 2:00 p.m. ET game at Accor Arena along the Seine Thursday.
So, the Nets will practice as well as promote and a win would make this trip all the more special.
“Taking pictures, standing out in the cold with guys huddled up and stuff like that, I think it was cool,” Dinwiddie said of how things are going. All that’s great for the players and the organization, but winning matters for a team slipping in the standings if not in international regard.
“We get a chance to re-establish ourselves as a culture, as a team, and we have some young talent to do that,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “It’s great that they’re able to be abroad and do this together and get a chance to grow together also.
”It’s special to represent the NBA and let other fans see us play.”
- Nets’ international popularity turned them into NBA’s ambassadors - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets’ Cam Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie reveal ‘motivating’ aspect of NBA Global Games - Erik Slater - Clutch Points
- What trip to Paris means for Nets, NBA as a brand: ‘It’s going to be good for the group’ ($)- C.J. Holmes - New York Daily News
- Wembanyama, Spurs planning for Paris next season. This week, it’s the Cavaliers’ and Nets’ turn ($)- Joe Vardon - The Athletic