NBA Looks to Open More Stores Abroad in International Full-Court Press

The league doesn’t have an exact number of stores that it’s targeting, but executives are looking to boost business aggressively in markets such as Mexico

The NBA store in Melbourne, Australia.
By Kim Bhasin
May 09, 2023 | 05:48 PM

Bloomberg — The National Basketball Association wants to open more retail shops in markets around the world, as the league looks to expand the sport’s presence abroad.

The league has opened new locations over the past year in Paris, Berlin, Melbourne, Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi, which sell licensed products such as jerseys, T-shirts and caps. There are now 37 stores across 12 countries.

“It’s been a very busy 12 months,” Rob Millman, head of international merchandising and attractions at the NBA, said in an interview. “Our plan is to spark the marketplaces that are underdeveloped.”

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International growth is a priority of Commissioner Adam Silver. The league has opened basketball academies to develop young players and negotiated deals with governments to build courts and facilities in a bid to expand the sport’s popularity. The NBA also started a pro league in Africa, in conjunction with the International Basketball Federation.


On the court, international players are having more impact than ever in the NBA, which hasn’t had a US-born Most Valuable Player award winner since the 2017-2018 season.

International expansion has become critical to the NBA’s future as it tries to attract consumers who may never get a chance to attend a live game in the US or Canada. That’s not stopping them from gravitating to basketball: Already, the majority of visitors to the NBA app come from outside North America.

Retail Foray

The NBA’s first foray into retail wasn’t its flashy New York flagship that opened in 1998, as Michael Jordan won his final championship with the Chicago Bulls. In the 1980s, the league tried to sell officially licensed products in Asia. The efforts fell apart, with executives saying they hadn’t conducted due diligence on their business partner.


Goods sold abroad now account for about 30% of the league’s total merchandising business. The league declined to share how much of its $10 billion or so in annual revenue comes from those products.

The NBA operates its own stores and also works with a network of retail partners, including major retail chains like GO Sport in France, Xebio in Japan, El Corte Inglés in Spain, Centauro in Brazil and JD Sports across Europe.

The league is also expanding the use of attractions, such as the NBA Courtside Restaurant it opened in Toronto and the NBA Park in Gramado, Brazil, a three-story entertainment complex that includes a court, a restaurant and a store. These destinations often include some kind of merchandising component.

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The most recent store opening was last week at a mall in Manila. Millman said the league doesn’t have an exact number of stores that it’s targeting, but executives are looking to boost business aggressively in certain markets. That includes Mexico, and he said the league is working on “catching up” in Latin America.


“A lot of this has to be fluid,” Millman said of the league’s plans. “Maybe it’ll be 50, maybe it’ll be 100.”