By Barry Janoff
October 27, 2015: When it comes to global growth and commitment, the NBA not only walks the walk but talks the talk, and has the passports and paperwork to prove it.
As it prepares for a new season, the NBA said that 100 international players from 37 countries and territories are on opening night rosters for the 2015-16 season, the second consecutive year that opening night rosters would feature at least 100 international players.
Also for the second consecutive year, all 30 NBA teams feature at least one international player.
The number of international players in the NBA has more than doubled since 2000-01, when the league had 45 international players, and nearly quintupled since 1990-91 (21 international players).
The league has established its international presence with games and programming available in 215 countries and territories and 47 languages and NBA merchandise for sale in more than 125,000 stores in 100 countries on six continents.
Including this coming season, the NBA will have played 161 international games, dating back to 1978.
Since the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign, as part of its Global Series, the league has played ten games beyond the U.S. borders, including the first NBA exhibition game in Africa, and will have two more international games during the regular season (Mexico City Dec. 3, London Jan. 14).
In July, Marriott International signed a deal making it the official hotel partner for NBA global events, becoming the first company to align with the NBA across international games on five different continents.
In September, Under Armour signed multi-year partnership with the NBA that will take the alliance worldwide, a strategy that is intended to build the brand of both parties.
The NBA's global map also includes some ten international Web sites, each dedicated to fans in specific countries, including Africa, China, Australia, Brazil, Germany and the Hispanic-language Éne-Bé-A.
There are a record ten players from African nations and a record nine Brazilian players on opening-night rosters.
Canada has the most of any country for the second straight year with a record-tying 12 NBA players. France comes in second for the second consecutive year with ten NBA players. Australia features a record-tying eight players, while Croatia and Spain fill the Top Five with four NBA players each.
The Toronto Raptors lead the league with seven international players. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz each feature six.
The Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets field five each, while the rosters of the Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks and Orlando Magic each include four.
Several international players will make their NBA debut during opening week, including Mario Hezonja (Croatia, Orlando Magic, Emmanuel Mudiay (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denver Nuggets) and Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia, New York Knicks).
Among the internationally-born returning players on opening night rosters are Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs) and Luis Scola (Toronto Raptors) from Argentina; Matthew Dellavadova (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Andrew Bogut (Golden State Warriors), Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurts) and Dante Exum (Utah Jazz) from Australia; Leandro Barbosa (Golden State Warriors) and Nene (Washington Wizards) from Brazil; Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) from Cameroon; Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder) from the Congo; Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks) from the Dominican Republic; Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) from Germany; and Marco Belinelli (Sacramento Kings) from Italy.
The contingent from Canada includes Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), Joel Anthony (Detroit Pistons), Robert Sacre (Los Angeles Lakers), Tyler Ennis (Milwaukee Bucks), Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves), and Anthony Bennett (Toronto Raptors).
“Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, and our partnership with the NBA gives us an opportunity to tap into a passionate fan base."
NBA players from France include Boris Diaw and Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs).
“Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, and our partnership with the NBA gives us an opportunity to tap into a passionate fan base and communicate the breadth and depth of our portfolio,” Karin Timpone, global marketing officer for Marriott International, said when the alliance was unveiled. “Similar to what we are doing with music and entertainment, our NBA partnership helps us create memorable experiences for our Rewards members and amplify the benefits of the program for both new and loyal guests.”
"We're proud to expand our partnership with the NBA and continue our shared commitment to help basketball players everywhere realize their potential, on and off the court," Adam Peake, evp-global marketing for Under Armour, said in a statement. "The new elements of our partnership will allow Under Armour to leverage our leadership in athletic performance innovation and Connected Fitness to foster the worldwide growth of basketball."
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