The NBA's impact on the world could be considered minimal, if it were not for the advanced technology of global television and the personal outreach both to and from the team members. This is exemplified by the NBA China experience. Chinese citizens are extremely knowledgeable about the players and the game itself and enjoy watching it on television. It is also considered a gesture of friendship that team members are participating on a global scale with other sports minded people. China is just one country that is being reached out to by the NBA Events and Promotions Department.
Even in countries where basketball is behind soccer as a popular sport, the interest shown in the game and the activities surrounding the game are an important commercial message from the United States. Yet, the connection between the international fans and the team members was anything but commercial. The fans knew the team members and their playing style; they knew the colors and jersey numbers of favorite players, and they were enthusiastic in their support both for the team members and for the game.
Perhaps more than any other single factor in the global impact of the NBA is the presence of 7′6″ center Yao Ming from China. Ming currently plays for the Houston Rockets and was their first round draft choice in 2002. Previously he played for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. The tallest player in the NBA, he is also the first draft choice in the NBA to be selected with no American playing experience. Even to allow Yao Ming to play for the NBA required extensive negotiations and agreements about the details of his playing experience. The cooperation between countries is another impact that the NBA has provided globally.
The NBA program known as Basketball Without Borders is another global awareness program. Basketball Without Borders is a program that uses basketball as a method to implement social change. Dozens of present and former NBA team personnel and players act as camp coaches in the program. Young people from many economic, national and cultural backgrounds are united each year on four continents to learn together through playing basketball. The program teaches basketball, but includes a forum for social issues and emphasizes the awareness of healthy living and education.
To date, the program has been presented in nine countries on five continents. More than 250 different NBA team personnel, coaches and players from 30 different NBA teams serve as camp coaches for 1200 youngsters from 100 countries or territories. The volunteers and the campers have racked up more than 85 million travel miles and donated more than one million hours of community service.
Additional people have been reached through the community relations outreach efforts wherever the camps are held. In addition, 37 NBA Cares Legacy Project sites have been created in communities outside the United States and Canada. These sites are places where children and families can come to grow, play and learn. For example, a Learn & Play Center in the desperately poor township of Soweto, South Africa was built in 2003. In 2004, at a Reading and Learning Center, held at Vila Olimpica de Jornalista Ary de Carvalho, the crew held Basketball and Books clinics and conducted Read to Achieve events.
Other events and facilities include those in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Beijing, China, Shanghai, China, Vilnius, Lithuania, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Paris, France. The NBA program has built dormitories, basketball courts, clinics, laundry facility and guest house, library and computer center for a school, dining halls, and Habitat for Humanity Homes. In addition to the basketball clinics, the Basketball Without Walls program offers educational and awareness programs such as literacy, HIV/AIDS awareness, Special Olympics clinic, Skills for Life in a Box, Healthy Lifestyle Clinic, Fitness Clinic, and numerous visits to schools, hospitals, clinics and medical facilities.
With this type of personal interaction all over the world it is hardly surprising that the NBA truly has a global impact. The mobilization of money, talent and materials toward specific projects not only means high visibility for the sports organization, but the one-on-one contact with the young people involved in the project is a personal outreach that cannot be matched elsewhere.
In addition to the group projects through the NBA, other projects are being funded directly by NBA players. Given this personal contact, it is not surprising that there are fans of NBA teams all over the world, and widespread support for the principles espoused and demonstrated by the organization.