Tony Parker gave his Spurs fans, and fellow French, a reason to celebrate with his game-clinching shot in Game 1 Thursday night.
The Heat gave its fans watching in more than 200 countries more thrills in Game 2 on Sunday.
With 10 international players combined on both rosters and a record number of people tuning in worldwide, this year’s NBA Finals have a distinct international feel. With the series picking up in San Antonio on Tuesday, Parker is one of nine internationalplayers on the Spurs roster. Add the Heat’s Canadian reserve center Joel Anthony and there are a record number of international players in the Finals.
The series’ diverse representation coupled with the Heat’s spike in popularity since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in the summer of 2010 has prompted huge global interest. A melting pot of nationalities sets up shop inside AmericanAirlines Arena in a scene similar to the United Nations building. Pictures of the flags of the home nations of several media outlets were posted on the glass in front of several work stations overlooking the court.
Crews tucked inside the many control trucks parked outside the arena coordinated the continuous coverage in languages such as English, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin and French just to name a few.
The convergence of TV and digital and social media is helping the NBA broadcast its signature event to a record 215 countries and territories in 47 languages.
“This is what the NBA and [commissioner] David [Stern] has been working for throughout his career,” said Steve Hellmuth, the NBA’s executive vice president for Operations and Technology. “Whenever a player comes to the league from a given country, his home fans obviously want to see him play on the big stage.”
Along with Parker, the Spurs have Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands), Nando De Colo (France), Boris Diaw (France), Aron Baynes (Australia), Cory Joseph (Canada), Patty Mills (Australia) and Tiago Splitter (Brazil) on their roster.
They represent the NBA’s huge growth in diversity and worldwide popularity that has continued to grow over the past two decades since the original Dream Team won gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Since then, the number of international players in the NBA has grown from 21 to 85. That season, the Finals were broadcast to 87 countries.
According to Hellmuth, this year’s Finals are being covered by 16 announcer teams that are on-site plus another 31 broadcasting from remote locations.
“All of our players were instantly recognized globally after what the Dream Team did in 1992,” said Hellmuth, who has worked with the NBA since 1990 and has worked with NBC Sports and Major League Baseball. “We had Dirk Nowitzki in the Finals a couple of years ago [with the Dallas Mavericks]. We had no broadcast deal at the time with Germany. It was all broadband. But the numbers we tracked after the series were huge.”
The NBA also launched a new online feature called “NBA Finals Companion” that combines television and social media and is available through its League Pass and nba.com. It allows fans to play “NBA Challenge,” a real-time predictive gaming experience, view live tweets from international commentators, and post photos of themselves watching the games with #NBAFan to Instagram or Twitter for a chance to be featured on the NBA world feed television broadcast.