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What: Players with Latin American ties are an increasing segment of the international growth of the NBA.
Why it matters: With tens of millions of fans in the region, these and other player connections to their nations of origin will make marketing there even more desirable for brands.

The NBA (@NBAhas become more of a global game than ever before, and the numbers of players entering this past weekend’s start of action from around the world bear that out.

All 16 teams competing in the playoffs will feature at least one international player. The Utah Jazz (@utahjazzand Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) have an NBA-high seven international players each. The Boston Celtics (@celtics), Toronto Raptors (@Raptorsand San Antonio Spurs (@spurseach have six. The Spurs’ 2014 NBA Championship team featured a record nine international players during the playoffs.

The most represented countries among the 62 international players on playoff rosters are France and Australia (seven players each), followed by Canada (four players), Spain (four players), Turkey, Croatia, Cameroon and Brazil (three players each). Thirty-six of the record 64 European players who were on opening-night rosters for the 2017-18 season are on playoff rosters.

The fact that Latino players are local aspirational heroes has also changed everything.

However what about a Latino influence? As the popularity of the NBA continues to take gold even more throughout Latin America, is that being reflected not just in talent but in activation?

In addition to the four players from Spain, another 10 Latinos dot NBA Playoff rosters, one of the largest and most impactful groups in recent history.

The list includes: Lucas Nogueira (Raptors), Al Horford (Celtics), John Holland (Cavaliers), Nene Hilario, Trevor Ariza (Houston Rockets), Maurice Harkles, Napier Shabazz (Blazers), Raulzinho Neto (Jazz), Manu Ginobili (Spurs) and Karl Anthony Towns (Timberwolves). Of the group Holland, Ariza, Harkless, Shabazz and Towns, were born in the United States, and have Dominican nationality, which will be interesting as the qualifying for the 2020 Olympics takes place in the next few years.

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The playoff impact on rising Latinos should not be lost, as the NBA stakes claim to 50 million casual fans and 17 million avid fans in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Columbia alone, and their presence in Mexico, where a training center is opening and regular season games are now a yearly occurrence continues to amplify.

Lucas Nogueira (credit: Keith Allison)

“Basketball is already the second-most watched sport in Mexico,” said Arnon de Mello, vice president and managing director of NBA Latin America recently. “It’s growing tremendously. And there are more basketball courts in this country than any other sport.”

For other countries, the rise in interest, and in brands looking to activate against that interest either in consumer activation or in the media, has also been amplified.

“When we first started going to Mexico or the Caribbean, it was a bit of a learning curve, now the amount of content young people can receive, and the ways they consume the NBA mean there is no learning at all,” said Terry Lyons, a veteran sports marketer who helped create the NBA’s global programs while at the league for over 25 years. “The star value of American players is obviously there, but the fact that Latino players are local aspirational heroes has also changed everything.”

Unlike a sport like baseball, which dominates some cultures in Latin America but not all, basketball, be it the rising 3 on 3 version that FIFA is pushing forward or traditional 5×5, has made a wider leap into the fabric of Latin America, and the ways to consume the game, especially around NBA Playoff time, have never been greater.

“The NBA has always looked to be global since David Stern arrived, and while most think that the focus is to Europe and Asia, the growth in Latin America for now may even be more impactful,” added Chris Lencheski, a veteran sports marketer now at MP & Silva and teaching at Columbia University. “Soccer will always be king, bit basketball has made some amazing strides both in broadcast and consumer engagement, and the more diverse its stars who speak Spanish, the better off they will be in the next decade.”

As the Playoffs get rolling the chances of a Latino player hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy come June will be more focused, but even if that does not happen this year, the sound of NBA basketball as a marketing property in Latin America is continuing to rise, and that sound is music to the ears of diverse brands, as well as the elite players who have embraced the culture of basketball, in countries far and wide.

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Cover Images: Manu Ginobili (Wikimedia: Zereshk); Nene (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Check out last weekend’s top 25 live sports ratings! Here is a quick look at the live sports programming people watched the most

Which sport drew the biggest audience?

The start of the NBA playoffs made a strong mark on last weekend’s ratings as Basketball was the most watched sport nationwide. The encounter between Oklahoma City vs Houston Rockets was the most watched match, attracting more than five million viewers.

What broadcaster drew the biggest audience?

Turner Network was the most-watched broadcaster. More than 10 million people saw the Oklahoma vs Houston and Chicago vs Boston games.
The second most watched channel was ESPN, which also broadcast some NBA Playoffs.

What else is relevant?

The encounter between MLB teams Yankees vs Cardinals was the most watched non-basketball related game. The game attracted 1.8 million viewers.

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ProgramEpisodeNetworkStartEndTotal Viewers (000)Viewers Age 18-49 (000)Day of the game
1NBA PLAYOFFS- ROUND 1 LOKLAHOMA CITY/HOUSTONTURNER NETWORK TELEVISION9:17 PM11:43 PM5.1612.826Sun
2NBA PLAYOFFS- ROUND 1 LCHICAGO/BOSTONTURNER NETWORK TELEVISION6:40 PM9:17 PM5.1382.719Sun
3NBA PLAYOFFS-1ST RD LGRIZZLIES/SPURSESPN8:03 PM10:39 PM3.1561.546Sat
4NBA PLAYOFFS-1ST RD LJAZZ/CLIPPERSESPN10:39 PM1:12 AM2.911.523Sat
5NBA PLAYOFFS-1ST RD LBUCKS/RAPTORSESPN5:30 PM8:03 PM2.5921.294Sat
6NBA PLAYOFFS- ROUND 1 LATLANTA/WASHINGTONTURNER NETWORK TELEVISION1:09 PM3:52 PM2.5811.337Sun
7MLB SUNDAY NIGHT LCARDINALS/YANKEESESPN8:00 PM11:26 PM1.759612Sun
8PREMIER LEAGUE LCHELSEA/MANCHESTER UNITEDNBC SPORTS NETWORK10:57 AM1:09 PM816416Sun
9NHL QTR FINALS LTORONTO/WASHINGTONNBC SPORTS NETWORK7:03 PM11:40 PM759392Sat
10NHL QTR FINALS LPITTSBURGH/COLUMBUSCNBC6:00 PM9:26 PM613317Sun
11NHL QTR FINALS LMONTREAL/NY RANGERSNBC SPORTS NETWORK7:00 PM9:47 PM592235Sun
12NHL QTR FINALS LEDMONTON/SAN JOSENBC SPORTS NETWORK9:47 PM12:31 AM554308Sun
13PBA BOWLING LROTH/HOLMAN PBA DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIPESPN1:00 PM3:00 PM511186Sun
14NHL QTR FINALS LCALGARY/ANAHEIMNBC SPORTS NETWORK11:40 PM1:35 AM498262Sat
15MLB REGULAR SEASON LSAN DIEGO PADRES/ATLANTA BRAVESFOX SPORTS 17:45 PM9:34 PM427123Sat
16PREMIER LEAGUE LLIVERPOOL/WEST BROMNBC SPORTS NETWORK8:22 AM10:33 AM415210Sun
17F1 RACING LBAHRAINCNBC10:30 AM12:47 PM413143Sun
18LALIGA SANTANDER MRQ-LBARCELONA VS. REAL SOCIEDADBEIN SPORT ESPANOL2:34 PM4:47 PM403229Sat
19PREMIER LEAGUE LLEICESTER/CRYSTAL PALACENBC SPORTS NETWORK9:57 AM12:00 PM361169Sat
20LIGA MX LPUEBLA / CRUZ AZULUNIVISION DEPORTES6:37 PM9:04 PM327176Sun
21COLL SOFTBALL REG SSN LMISSOURI/AUBURNESPN3:00 PM5:00 PM277100Sun
22MLB REGULAR SEASON LDETROIT TIGERS/CLEVELAND INDIANSFOX SPORTS 14:00 PM7:45 PM27273Sat
23PREMIER LEAGUE LBOURNEMOUTH/TOTTENHAMNBC SPORTS NETWORK7:23 AM9:27 AM260121Sat
24LALIGA SANTANDER MRQ-LSPORTING VS. REAL MADRIDBEIN SPORT ESPANOL10:05 AM12:15 PM256149Sat
25LIGA MX LJAGUARES / TIJUANAUNIVISION DEPORTES5:50 PM7:57 PM18896Sat

Source: SportsTVRatings.com (“All data ©Nielsen, provided by a variety of TV network sources and not directly from Nielsen”)

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