The initiative is unprecedented. It speaks volumes about the ever-closer links between the Olympic movement and the North American professional leagues. And about the marriage of reason between two worlds that have long watched each other from a distance.
The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced on Wednesday 9 August that it had signed a deal with the NBA for the 2023 Men’s World Cup, scheduled to take place from 25 August to 10 September in three Asian countries: Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines. The agreement covers digital broadcasting of the matches in the global tournament.
For the first time since the creation of the event, FIBA’s digital platform, Courtside 1891, will be accessible on the NBA’s official application and website. In around twenty countries, including several of the world’s leading basketball nations (Spain, Greece, Argentina, Lithuania, Serbia and Slovenia), internet users will be able to follow the World Cup online via the NBA’s digital channels, provided they purchase a pass for the tournament.
The agreement is intended to be exclusive, at least in the countries concerned. It will begin with the opening matches on Friday 25 August and continue through to the World Cup final on Sunday 10 September. The matches will be accessible live or on demand.
The 2023 World Cup, the first to be co-hosted by three countries, will bring together 32 teams for a total of 92 matches over 16 days of competition. In addition to the joint FIBA/NBA offer, the tournament will be broadcast in more than 190 countries or territories, the widest audiovisual coverage in history.
For both parties, the agreement announced on Wednesday 9 August is an excellent deal. By slipping its digital platform prominently into the NBA’s digital offering, FIBA is ensuring exposure on the scale of the North American league. In other words, massive. Above all, it can reach a basketball audience – NBA fans – not necessarily attracted by international tournaments.
The NBA, for its part, can take advantage of a world tournament where a solid colony of its players will be present to partly bridge the long tunnel between two seasons. Always a good thing. Phrased differently, the deal with FIBA offers the NBA a great window “to engage with fans throughout the offseason and widen its scope of basketball content.”
The North American league will announce the full list of players from its franchises participating in the 2023 World Cup in the coming days, once all the national teams have been selected. This week, however, both parties unveiled the main names. The cast looks good, with Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder – pictured above), Frenchman Rudy Gobert (Minnesota Timberwolves), Slovenian Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Americans Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves), Tyrese Haliburton (Indiana Pacers), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies) and Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic).
The NBA is not the only North American professional league to get closer to the Olympic world. The NFL is also venturing into territory that it has long treated with the utmost indifference. Since last year, it has been lending its support, clout and financial resources to the International Federation of American Football’s (IFAF) campaign to include flag football in the programme for the Los Angeles 2028 Games.
Here too, both parties have everything to gain by combining their efforts. With the clear support of the NFL, the IFAF can succeed in a gamble that, without the influence of the professional league, would probably have been lost in advance. As for the NFL, it realised a long time ago that the Olympic label could boost its international development, even with a discipline like flag football, whose rules and dimensions are quite different from its own.