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January 17, 2019
ADAM SILVER: Let me begin by thanking all of you for being here today. I appreciate how far many of you have traveled to be at this game. In fact, we know from the ticket manifest, from the service we use, that fans from over 39 countries bought tickets online in order to be here today, and I'm sure many others have traveled who didn't buy tickets officially. So again, welcome to the media, welcome to all the fans from throughout Europe and frankly the rest of the world who chose to be here at the O2 Arena today.
Let me begin by thanking our partners at the O2 Arena, AEG. This is the ninth consecutive year they've hosted NBA here at this arena. It is a state-of-the-art arena. In fact, once the game starts, you wouldn't know you weren't at a game in the U.S. or Canada. It's professional in every possible way, and we're very appreciative of the partnership.
To the New York Knicks and the Washington Wizards, thank you to both those organizations for being here. It's a bit disruptive in the regular season for them to travel over to London for a game, but I will say they do it enthusiastically. In fact, in the case of both the Knicks and the Wizards, their principal team owners chose to come with their teams. Jim Dolan is here from the New York Knicks, and Ted Leonsis from the Washington Wizards. They have been in London for the last several days, busy conducting business and other activities along with their teams. We appreciate them being here along with their entire organizations.
I also want to thank the NBA's London office. That's our full-time staff here in London who puts enormous effort into hosting and conducting all the activities around this game. It's essentially a week's worth of activities. Over the last several days we've had clinics in town, Jr. NBA programs, NBA Cares programs. We've had multiple partner events. I won't name them all, but you can see the logos behind me are the partners we worked with for this event.
I've said this in the past, but it feels a little bit like our European All-Star Game here in town because it's the one time in the regular season we're here and it's an opportunity for our partners and for our London office to create all kinds of activities on the ground and to host our guests and our friends. We're very appreciative of that.
It is the 91st game that the NBA will have played in Europe. That includes both friendlies and fixtures - I just wanted to get those words in - that we've played over the years. In addition to that, what has been exciting to see in my years now at the league is the development of the enormous talent that's coming out of Europe now into the NBA.
Look no further than this year's All-Star voting. Of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the No. 1 vote-getter in the East right now, and Luka Don?i? is the No. 2 vote recipient [in the Western Conference] at this point in All-Star balloting, which is quite remarkable, especially for Luka, of course, as a rookie in the league. And by the way, for those who want to continue voting for their favorite players from Europe or elsewhere, All-Star balloting continues until Tuesday, January 22. So vote early and often. We appreciate your patronage.
Let me also say that we have a brand-new television partner, Sky Sports, for this game and for the NBA throughout the season and the next few seasons as well, but I anticipate that'll be a long-term partnership. We're on multiple Sky networks for this game, and we're also partners in terms of their digital platforms. We're hugely excited about that. We see an opportunity with the entire Sky system to continue promoting the NBA throughout Europe. And of course in addition to Sky here in England and the UK, this game is also being broadcast, streamed, telecast in 200 other countries around the world. We anticipate a fairly massive audience for this regular-season game. Of course, it helps to be here primetime in Europe.
A few other things I want to mention, then I'm happy to answer any of your other questions. This is the first game we'll have played in Europe since the tragic loss of Patrick Baumann, which I think most of you know was the Secretary General of FIBA. Patrick passed away in October just of this past year. This would have been his 25th year with FIBA. It's hard for me to be at a game in Europe without Patrick with us. We grew up in the organizations together. Before he was Secretary General, he had a staff job similar to what I did at the NBA before I became Commissioner. I think everyone certainly at the NBA owes him a huge debt of gratitude in terms of what he did over the past quarter century to help grow this game throughout Europe, and for that matter, around the world. He was also an IOC member. I think he single-handedly drove through this new three-on-three basketball that's to be part of Olympic competition beginning in 2020 in Tokyo. Let me also say to his wife, Patricia, to his daughter, Bianca, and son, Paul, we miss your father very much, and also of course the NBA family will remain close to the Baumann family forever. Again, thank you, Patrick, and all of FIBA.
And I had a chance to spend a little time with Andreas Zagklis, who is the new Secretary General of FIBA. He is someone who had been working as an outside attorney at one point for FIBA and then was in-house counsel. He is stepping up now into that new position. I will say that hopefully our relationship with FIBA will not miss a beat, and we will continue to work together to grow basketball throughout the world.
With that, I'm happy to answer any questions any of you have.
Q. How likely is it that you will put on the regular-season a game in Paris, in France? Is it possible for next year, the year after?
ADAM SILVER: I'm told I'm not allowed to break news today, but yes, it is possible. It is something we are looking very closely at, and that is playing a regular-season game in Paris for next season.
Q. Is it important for you to organize this game in Paris, in France?
ADAM SILVER: It is very important. France has historically been a terrific market for the NBA. As you know, we have several players from France as well. I know when we've played many exhibition games in Paris over the years -- I remember being there with Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls and the tremendous excitement around that team. It will continue, I think, to be an important market.
We took a number of years off because, of course, your arena was being renovated and upgraded. I haven't yet been to what used to be Bercy Arena, but I hear it's fantastic. So we're looking forward to coming back to Paris.
Q. Obviously American leagues have enjoyed a lot of success bringing their product to Europe, bringing regular-season games to Europe. But I'm sure you're aware that European soccer leagues there's been a lot of resistance to the idea of playing games in America, particularly Spain's La Liga. What do you see as the benefits of taking games away from your home country, and what would you say to those that doubt whether it could work for soccer?
ADAM SILVER: The issues seem to be different, frankly, from what we hear in the United States and the resistance I've read about from some of the European players and clubs. I think maybe it's because we have a very long regular season, and in this case it's only one team giving up a regular-season [home] game, and that's the Washington Wizards, and what we see as enormous amount of enthusiasm. I think the local fans accept it still means that there will be 40 regular-season home games instead of 41. They hope to make the playoffs, so it would be even more games, plus they play preseason exhibition games.
I think the players, as we increasingly have a more global league -- 25 percent, roughly, of our players are born now outside of the United States. We have 65 European players. I think increasingly what we're seeing with our international players is they enjoy returning home for games, and they enjoy sharing that experience with their teammates.
We really haven't had all that much resistance to doing it. In fact, when we play games, especially in Europe, where it's not all that long a flight, in many cases the teams have put together programs where some of their partners and fans can travel with the team and attend as well. So it hasn't been all that controversial.
I understand it's a little different approach with European football. I think in the United States, we have more sports.
Those kind of close, almost tribal bonds that we see here with soccer, in some ways I'm jealous. I mean, it's a very special relationship that I think fans have to their clubs throughout Europe, and it may be a little bit different approach in the United States.
Q. You're playing preseason games in India. Longer term, how would you evaluate a market like that in terms of staging regular-season games? And how do you look at a market like that again in the longer term as one that would bring returns for the NBA and I guess basketball generally?
ADAM SILVER: Let me just start with the difference between the preseason game potential and a regular-season game. For us, one of the issues when we play regular-season games is because our season is so compact, we don't have as much time for activities in the community, especially when we're flying as far as India or China is from the United States. So what we find, for example, with the two preseason games we're playing in Mumbai next year, and especially since we've never played anywhere in India before, there's a lot more we can do on the ground when it's a preseason game than a regular-season game. The teams can do more of the kinds of activities I talked about earlier -- clinics, community programs, sightseeing for the players, an opportunity to really get a sense of what the community is about.
In a market like India where we've never even played a preseason game, there isn't really an issue. People aren't saying to us, This has got to be a fixture. I think they accept that this is a unique experience for two NBA teams to be making the trip.
In China, it's essentially been the same. It's not that they wouldn't prefer that we come over with regular-season games. I think, though, there is a recognition that we have a very long season, and if we were to change the formula from preseason to regular season, it would fairly significantly shorten the trips, because there wouldn't be as much time on the ground. I think even now with some of the activities that we were able to build in, it still means that the teams need to spend a couple days reacclimating once they return to the United States. And the issue -- of course it's not that long a flight, but I think because of sleep patterns, because of the five-hour time difference from the East Coast of the United States, that makes a difference for the players.
But it's something we will continue to look at. I'd say, as I said earlier, we do have a long regular season, and one of the things that I'm sure we'll be talking to our Players Association about over time is should we take a fresh look at the way our season is structured. You could create more space in the season so that we could bring more teams over maybe, open up the possibility of having a tournament in Europe, a tournament in Asia or in Latin America, other parts of the world. I think there are other ways for us to look at the season, and as we bring in more international players, as the following becomes more global, as technology changes, those are all things that we're going to continue to look at.
Q. I suppose one of the biggest European draw cards isn't here, Enes Kanter. He may feel justified because that red notice from Interpol was issued when the Knicks were midair, but from an organizational point of view, you're community based. You're also looking at it globally, this organization. What's your stance?
ADAM SILVER: My stance is that I think it's very unfortunate that Enes Kanter is not here with the New York Knicks. I absolutely understand his reasoning why he elected not to come. Certainly there was never a suggestion from the league that he was not welcome to come on this trip. But we live in a world where these are really significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, that by virtue of the fact that we're a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to these issues as well.
I will say there's nothing more important to me as the Commissioner of the league than the security and the safety of our players. So we take very seriously the threats that he's received, even if it's just people on social media.
And again, I support Enes as a player in this league, and I support the platform that our players have to speak out on issues that are important to them.
Q. On social media this week, I've seen a lot of people saying, Oh, the NBA is playing an international game, great. But why is it playing it in the UK when there are other countries that might claim to have a stronger basketball culture? So obviously there are, as you said, people from nearly 40 countries who bought tickets for this game. Why is it that London and the UK continues to be such an important market and platform for the NBA in terms of its international profile?
ADAM SILVER: One of the reasons London has continued to be so important is it appears to be in many ways a hub for us in Europe that is easily accessible, as we know, for people from throughout Europe who enjoy traveling here for events. This particular facility, the O2 Arena, the last I looked, I think it was the highest-grossing arena in the world. They and AEG do a fantastic job hosting major league events, so that's made it very easy for us to in a very turnkey fashion to come in and play these games here.
But also, in response to the earlier question, we are looking at other markets. We recognize that Europe is a huge market, that there is enormous interest, and many of the other European markets have a stronger basketball affinity even than they do here in England.
It's been a marriage in part of convenience, but it's been very successful for both parties. Once again here, when we announced this game and put tickets on sale, they sold out in less than an hour. So there's no issue whatsoever in terms of demand. We do want to be in a position of bringing NBA games to other countries and cities in Europe, and that's something we're very focused on.
Q. I was wondering if you'd be able to let us know if there were any plans to televise the All-Star Draft this year?
ADAM SILVER: There are. We plan to televise the All-Star Draft this year. It was something we worked out with our Players Association. We thought the first year out, let's make sure that we pull it off in a way that works and that the players are comfortable with the process. They were, and this year the All-Star Draft will be televised.
Q. There are a lot of games all around the world on different continents. I know since 2015 you have the NBA Africa Game. Can we expect any preseason game or regular-season game soon in Africa?
ADAM SILVER: As you know, we've been playing in Johannesburg three out of the last four years. I wouldn't categorize it as either a preseason or regular-season game; it's been a collection of NBA players, an All-Star format. We've actually thought that's been very effective because we're able to take a group of players in the summer. It speaks a little bit to the earlier question. We've found there are players, in partnership with the NBA Players Association, who want to make a real commitment to Africa. They don't just want to come and play a game and participate in a clinic and go home. They want to come, they want to work in the community. In many cases, these are players who haven't had an opportunity to travel through Africa. Some use it as an opportunity to bring their families, to go on safaris.
It's been an effective format for three of the last four years. And it's the same with coaches and general managers and other team executives who have wanted the experience of Africa.
I think the immediate issue for us is now having been in South Africa three out of the last four years, of course Africa is roughly 55 countries, where else can we play. We know, for example, there was just a new arena dedicated in Senegal. In fact, my colleague, Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, was there for that dedication. We see enormous opportunity throughout the continent of Africa to continue growing the sport. We think arena development is critically important in order for that development to continue. That's something that we're engaged in conversations with African leaders about on a regular basis.
But I anticipate that we will again next summer play a game, an All-Star-format-type game in Africa. I think for a regular-season game or even a preseason game, we're not quite there yet. But as I said, it's not a logistical issue. We could do it, I just don't think we'll get as much benefit from a quick trip like that.
Q. What do you think about the expansion of the NBA 2K League in Europe? We can see that Germany has their own pro-am teams.
ADAM SILVER: Expansion of the NBA 2K League, thank you for asking that. So in terms of our e-gaming NBA 2K League, we're expanding this season with four more teams. We started with 17 teams in the NBA, and we're moving to 21.
Honestly, we would love to expand that league around the world. What's so unique about that league is by nature of the competition, there really are no geographical boundaries to us expanding anywhere. That is something we're actively looking at.
I think right now, as we grow within the NBA just by, again, adding another four teams to 21, going into only our second season now, I want to make sure that we're operating in an efficient way, that we're learning everything we need to know about how to do this successfully.
But we know there's enormous interest in Europe, Asia, all around the world in the NBA 2K game. Stay tuned. That would be our dream, to have teams all around the world.
And by the way, just so everyone understands, the way the technology works right now, you still need to bring the people together to compete. For the professional game, because of latency in technology, the players still need to be sitting in the same studio to compete. So while we can have teams in other places in the world, they would still need to travel.
That's a little bit of a hindrance right now. But I think 5G is coming. Technology is changing. I look forward to the day when from a virtual standpoint, five-on-five players playing NBA 2K will be able to compete from anywhere in the world.
Q. Speaking about the NBA as a global game, could there be even a possibility of let's say a European division or world division as part of the league like the Western and Eastern Conference?
ADAM SILVER: We've talked about that over the years. It's something David Stern often talked about when he was Commissioner. One of the obstacles right now is just the travel in terms of the time zones and the impact on the players' bodies. For example, it's, of course, not all that long a flight from the East Coast of the United States to London. It took me six hours to fly here, which is not all that different than flying from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast. I know now more about the impact of travel on players than we did certainly 10 years ago, and that is that the changing sleep patterns can result in injuries for our players.
So there's a limitation in essence in technology right now, and in many ways, air travel has gone backward. There used to be a Concorde that was faster. I think this is an area where potentially with faster air transport, or maybe there is a way where we have a European division that sort of plays itself, it's concentrated, and then they travel at various times.
It's something we will look at over time. I'd say right now, we've made a lot of progress in the NBA in terms of creating greater competition throughout the league. I think this season is a prime example where you have several really good teams, incredible young players coming into the league. So one of the issues with expansion, it's one thing to talk about adding one, to talk about adding two teams, but to add a whole other division in Europe means then rosters have 15 players. Say you needed a real division, call it six teams, that means that you're talking about 90 players coming into the league.
We're not quite there yet, I think, for that level of expansion to the league in terms of quality play. At the same time, we don't want to dilute the quality of NBA talent. That's why my focus right now is building a very strong 30-team league. But it's something that's not completely out of the question, and I'm sure we'll turn back to that at some point.
Q. When you talk about a possible game in Paris next season, are you thinking more of a second NBA game in Europe or moving this game to Paris?
ADAM SILVER: That is not clear yet. I think that, again, it's still a very labor-intensive undertaking to bring regular-season games over to Europe. Right now, we're still thinking that the format would probably be to have one game next year. But it's something that our London office is continuing to explore.
Q. One of the ongoing discussions from a fan point of view has been the prices for this event. Resellers have been driving the price of tickets up quite dramatically. What's your involvement and view in that? Do you have any kind of connection to that ongoing discussion?
ADAM SILVER: The fact that resellers drive the price up of course concerns us because it disintermediates us as well from those ticket buyers. We no longer even have a direct relationship with them. It befuddles us a bit, and it's an issue globally. We deal with it all the time in the United States. Even at the initial prices at which we charge fans, most people think those are fairly high ticket prices. But even at those numbers, we're undercutting the market because clearly there's a market to buy those tickets and then resell them for significantly higher values. And those tickets, which as I said were also sold at fairly high prices, sold out in less than an hour.
There are measures we could take, maybe closer to what airlines do with their tickets, that seem fairly draconian to me to prevent people from transferring tickets from one person to another. I'm not so sure it would be wise at this point. So it's something we're monitoring.
My sense is, like with a lot of things we've discussed, technology will change over time, which will allow us to have that direct relationship with the fan and where we'll be able to put in place controls where people will only be able to transfer ownership of a ticket with our permission. But there are also legal issues, especially country by country, on how you can control ticket pricing in that way.
I think right now, unfortunately, it's a fact of life. But we, of course, want to see our most passionate fans in the building, not just those who can afford to pay the very high secondary market prices.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports