By Chinedu Nwosu
The 2019-20 NBA season restart will reach fans in 215 countries and territories in 47 languages on their televisions, computers, mobile phones and tablets, highlighting a whole new game with a more connected and immersive experience for fans. This includes the 88 “seeding games” beginning July 30 as well as behind-the-scenes coverage and interviews from ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
Below are international highlights of the 2019-20 NBA season restart:
The 22 teams participating in the season restart feature 89 international players from 34 countries and territories, including the record eight international 2020 NBA All-Stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks; Greece), Luka Dončić (Dallas Mavericks; Slovenia), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers; Cameroon; BWB Africa 2011), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz; France), Nikola Jokić (Denver Nuggets; Serbia), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers; Lithuania)*, Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors; Cameroon; BWB Africa 2012) and Ben Simmons (76ers; Australia).All 22 teams feature at least one international player, and the Mavericks have a league-high seven international players.The most-represented non-U.S. countries on the rosters of the 22 teams are Canada (15 players) and France (seven players) followed by Australia, Germany and Serbia (five players each). Embiid and Siakam are among the 22 former Basketball Without Borders (BWB) campers on season restart rosters.
Select international players have chosen to wear social justice messages on their custom NIKE NBA team jerseys in languages other than English, including Bosnian, French Creole, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latvian, Maori, Slovenian and Spanish.
All 88 seeding games will air outside the U.S. and Canada on NBA League Pass. The 88 seeding games include 41 games that will air in primetime in Latin America and 40 games that will air in primetime in Europe, the Middle East and Africa on the NBA’s broadcast partners in those regions and NBA League Pass, the most-ever games to air in primetime internationally in a two-week period. The season restart will be available in Africa on ESPN, Canal+, beIN Sports, TV5Monde (Pan Africa), ZAP (Angola and Mozambique) and e.tv (South Africa).
While fans won’t be physically present at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, more than 300 NBA fans each game will be invited to appear live on the “Michelob ULTRA Courtside” 17-foot video boards surrounding the court. Those fans will have the opportunity to digitally interact with each other throughout the game using Microsoft’s “Together mode” to create a virtual experience by removing fans from their individual backgrounds and bringing them together in a shared visual space that will be seen through the broadcast and in the venue. This new experience—the first to go live as a result of the NBA’s strategic alliance with Microsoft—gives participating fans the feeling of sitting next to one another at a live game without leaving the comfort and safety of their homes, while players experience their energy and support in-venue.
Additionally, all viewers will have the ability to impact visual effects in the venue through a virtual cheering experience. Fans can digitally cheer for their team through the NBA App and NBA.com and on Twitter using team hashtags throughout the game. Virtual cheering will be reflected on the video boards in-venue with graphics and animations that capture the level of fan engagement around the world. Fans will also have the opportunity to see their videos featured through TikTok Challenges. Snapchat’s “ground segmentation” augmented reality technology will also give fans an opportunity to explore a virtual rendering of the official court in Orlando via a Lens wherever they are.
Outside the US, NBA League Pass’s coverage of the seeding games will include alternate feeds with new camera angles, enhanced graphics, in-language streams and influencer commentary with a focus on areas such as pop culture and music. All 88 seeding games will be available in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Fans will also have access to in-game polls and quizzes throughout play.
The NBA’s “Whole New Game” marketing campaign will feature a series of three spots, beginning with “It’s A Whole New Game,” that will run throughout the season restart on the league’s live broadcasts, social media channels and digital platforms globally. All three spots will be translated into more than 10 languages, including Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese (subtitles only), Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai. As part of the “Whole New Game” campaign, 22 international celebrities from the world of film, fashion and sports sat down to discuss the teams participating in the season restart and their “3 Reasons to Watch” select teams. “3 Reasons to Watch” content will be aired by the league’s international broadcast partners and shared on the NBA’s social media channels globally.
Rakuten, a global marketing partner of the NBA and the league’s exclusive distribution partner in Japan, will host online viewing events on NBA Rakuten, the one-stop destination for fans in Japan to watch NBA games and programming.
Domestic and international media who are not on-site have access to virtual media availabilities with players and coaches, as well as footage from team practices on a daily basis.
As part of NBA Together, the league’s global community and social engagement campaign that aims to support, engage, educate and inspire youth, families and fans in response to the coronavirus pandemic, NBA players, legends and coaches have filmed more than 45 PSAs in nine different languages to share vital health and safety information about ways to reduce risk, proper handwashing and hygiene habits, physical distancing, wearing a facemask and staying physically and mentally fit. To date, these messages have generated more than 65 million video views across the league’s global digital and social platforms.
The Jr. NBA Global Championship – an annual youth basketball tournament for top 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls teams from around the world – will take place this year as a virtual event that will engage nearly 3,000 youth players from Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada, China, Europe & the Middle East, India, Mexico, Latin America and the U.S. The event, which tipped off last week, will culminate next month with a Jr. NBA Day of Celebration as part of the 2019-20 NBA restart at ESPN Wide World of Sports, which hosted the two previous Jr. NBA Global Championships.