NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 18, 2013Richmond High School
DAVID STERN: Well, first of all, it's great to be back in London and I want to thank you all for coming. We're looking forward to another sold?out game. I asked someone to hand me some statistics, and this is our 11th NBA game in London since 1993, the third regular season game in the past two years, and the 16th international regular season game since 1990. We're having?? we're doing all right, and I want to thank the city for its great hospitality. For my money we can't come back here enough.
And we've got two historic franchises here. The Knicks are currently first in the Atlantic Division, and they come back with a couple of Olympians who had a pretty good summer here, and the Piston, having gotten off to a pretty slow start, arrive in London having won seven of their last ten games. I want to Jim Dolan and Hank Ratner of the Knicks, and Tom Gores and Dennis Mannion and the Pistons for their cooperation and for their team's terrific cooperation in making this day possible.
This sort of has a different feel to it for us. We have a new partner in Sky Sports, which is going to be televising the game tonight and going to be doing a double header every Sunday. That's pretty good for us. And I'm reliably informed they're going to do it in 3D, as well. Unfortunately I'm going to be in the stands so I'm going to miss it, but that's a huge partnership for us. It's going to be?? in addition to those double headers, it's going to be the Playoffs and The Finals. Together with our good partner ESPN UK, this is going to be the most comprehensive NBA coverage in the UK.
And I also want to thank Adidas, who makes so much of what we do in Europe possible. It's the presenting partner.
And I also want to thank our good friends from AEG and the O2. We're like members of the same family. They treat us well in their venues all over the world, and I want to say thank you to them.
You know, what can I say about London? It was great to be here during the Olympics. We had 59 players with NBA experience participating and 25 of them won medals, you know. And every place we go, we give something back to the community, and yesterday members of the Knicks and Pistons led a clinic for 90 local youth from the Gateway Primary School, and they did that right here in the O2.
So we're looking for a very exciting game in the midst of a spectacular season, and I welcome all of your questions. The difficult ones will be answered by Adam. (Laughter.)
Q. Do you have a plan to have the regular season taking place in China in the future?
DAVID STERN: You know, we've been doing it more season to season, but I would say to you that everything is on the table as we assess our international growth. It's interesting, we've been very successful. This year in China, we'll have four regular season games a week on CCTV. We'll be streaming games on SINA.com and Tencent, and in terms of our own success, we're measuring it less about a particular game that only 18,000 people get to see and more about the breadth and scope of the coverage that we're getting and the way our fans are absorbing up digitally and especially in China on their smartphones and on television.
So we don't know where, but we're going through with a?? I guess after this?? we have a 10?year collective bargaining agreement, so it's going to give us an opportunity to do some long?range planning with the stability that that presents, and we'll decide what to do then.
Q. What are the plans for Europe in the next years, still playing one regular season game here, increasing the amount of matches, London, Berlin?
DAVID STERN: It's very hard to increase our presence. We've been?? this past season, Adam and I split it. He was in Istanbul and Barcelona, I was in Milan and Berlin. We both went to Beijing and Shanghai. I guess what I would say is as far as it goes, we're planning to do more friendlies next season than we've ever done. We just haven't decided exactly where they should be. And I think as we spend the summer after those friendlies, we'll see what the regular season quotient is.
Q. I don't know if this is a tough question or not. There is speculation with the new downtown arena that's been proposed in Detroit that the Pistons may move there. Just your thoughts on that situation. Is there any preference on either being in downtown or out at the Palace?
DAVID STERN: You know, you're putting me on the spot there. No. Actually I've heard a rumor that Tom Gores is going to be in the building tonight and Dennis Mannion and everyone from Detroit, so I'm going to sidestep that because I just think we like The Palace at Auburn Hills. It's been a great home for us, and indeed it is, I'd say, given the recent reinvestments that have been made by Tom Gores and Dennis Mannion and that whole team. It's the best preserved of its age that we have, and it's just about as modern as can be. So I have had not part of any discussion for a replacement arena for that.
ADAM SILVER: That was too tough a question. I'll leave it to David.
DAVID STERN: I heard a rumor that the Red Wings were going to move out to the Palace.
Q. I heard that one, too.
DAVID STERN: I just made it up, but if you've heard it??
Q. I have heard that one.
DAVID STERN: That just shows you about these rumors, okay. That's pretty interesting.
Q. This may be another tricky one, but as the Knicks are in town, it's a Knicks question. There's been some discussion about the microphones in the last game with Melo. Basically do you think it's appropriate for a team to have microphones aimed at the court during the game?
DAVID STERN: Actually I'd like you to spend more time at our games because we do nothing but aim microphones at our court. We mic players, we mic coaches, and we have mics associated with all the cameras and in some cases bigger mics so that anything that is said on the court is really subject to being picked up. So this is not?? that's why I enjoy watching NFL games. Why do you think that you hear the quarterback shouting the instructions? It's because there are these mics that are designed to pick up everything, enhancing the fan experience.
For my money, I'd like to see the audio track of our games be a little bit more robust anyway. So we'll see how that works out. But no, the answer is if anything there are going to be more mics around that game rather than fewer.
Q. Could you give us an update on the Sacramento?Seattle situation, and what are the odds that the Sonics will be playing next year?
DAVID STERN: I was hoping you would give me the update. I would say the following: The one thing we do know is that no purchase and sale agreement has been submitted to us, and we assume if one were going to be executed, the next thing they would do is submit it to us. There's been lots of speculation. The mayor of Sacramento has asked me, well, if it comes to pass because we've been reading it in the newspapers, and he knows that anything he reads in the newspapers is likely to be accurate, could I come in and address the Board of Governors or the relocation committee, and I said, always. The communities have supported us?? and many that haven't, but Sacramento has been particularly supportive, are always welcome to present. The mayor has been in before. So that's it, other than the speculation of what's going on.
Q. Has there been any contact with the folks in Seattle?
DAVID STERN: The answer to that is yes. The mayor of Seattle came in some time ago and told us that he was in favor of having a team, and we always entertain mayors, even for cities that don't have teams. Chris Hansen we understand to be a prospective builder of a building there who has acquired land has been in to have talks with us. So we've been?? we are more or less in a series of communications, but right now we don't know anything in terms of actionable plans.
Q. Back in the day I used to like it when players would go to the free?throw line and have three to make two. You should remember that. Is there a way you could speak to the rules committee and get them to bring that back?
DAVID STERN: Adam, what do you think?
ADAM SILVER: We'd be happy to.
DAVID STERN: You see, that's the difference. I would say that's the silliest?? no. Send us a letter, we'll put it up. We'll let them know you're interested.
Q. Adam, the commissioner recently was pretty specific in saying that he believes that there would be European expansion within the next 20 years. Its implementation is going to fall to you obviously. Where does that fall on your pecking order, and what did you learn from the NFL Europe failed experiment?
ADAM SILVER: I'm not sure what the lesson is from NFL Europe because it's a very different game. It's one that's not an Olympic game, it's one that's not played on a widespread basis throughout the world, so I'd park the sort of NFL experience.
In terms of the NBA and basketball, it's very encouraging what we're seeing on this trip, what we saw when we were both here for the Olympics this summer and also what we're seeing with the advent of state?of?the?art arenas in Europe, obviously this building, Berlin, Istanbul has a brand new building, Paris is about to renovate their building, and one of the things David has talked about for years is the need for a state?of?the?art arena infrastructure in order to potentially have teams here.
I think what then has to follow is television. We're seeing that now. We have a new deal with Sky Sports that we're very excited about as David mentioned. The potential is there. It's a complex issue as to whether the NBA should expand, whether we should relocate franchises, ultimately how much fan support there is.
But David set a long horizon in 20 years, so it's something in terms of the pecking order that we'll continue to focus on. I think the international opportunity is a huge one for the NBA. I know it's increasingly something that our owners are very focused on. It's I'm sure why Tom Gores, the owner of the Detroit Pistons, is here today with his team. He does a lot of business already in Europe, and so we increasingly have owners who are focused on global business opportunities, and there's no question that the game of basketball continues to grow and there will be a big opportunity in Europe.
DAVID STERN: We're here with Heidi Ueberroth, the president of international, and over the years we have gone from virtually no one being involved in international business to over 200 people across the world on our behalf being responsible for that business. And I said to someone earlier, I believe that even though the results for us and for our owners are profitability and growth, we're literally just beginning. International is the most enormous opportunity, and for us it's?? from a business perspective it's a game?changer, and from a game perspective as more and more young people bounce the ball after watching Olympics or games like this, the talent pool is going to continue growing.
I'm going to enjoy watching from a distance the pressure that's going to be put on my successor to deal with success, because it's very exciting, and here we come in here, this is like people saying, well, it's a business trip for the next?? it may be a business trip in terms of the players have to come in and get back to other business, but for us it's just great to see what the response has been to the announcement about Sky Sports, to the NBA Cares events, to the excitement our players are actually showing for being in the city and how they're recognized and how they see the game grow.
So the international horizon is huge. The only question is does it have to be a team or not. There are so many ways to capture the success that that's just something that is going to be left to Adam and his group to decide.
Q. Since you are not interested in Melo and microphones, my question is about the international League Pass. You told me that you have many clients from Poland. Can you share with us some more data about European countries?
DAVID STERN: I can't share the data because we said we wouldn't for reasons that we'll figure out eventually, but Poland is a top?five country. There's a lot of interest in our game in Poland. I said, what's going on here, why is that? But there's an enormous?? we're just beginning. We just started with League Pass Broadband International. This is like the first full season. Last season it began after?? when we started late. And as far as we can see, it's going to keep growing at double digits every year for the foreseeable future because the opportunity?? because it's not only interest is going to grow in our game, but the enabled smartphones and smart televisions are going to grow and the carriage capabilities. So we're beginning to see enormous potential for increased exposure based upon growth of the game and growth of the technology.
Q. In the context of the international growth that you talked about, what was your reaction to the news that UK sport had cut off funding to British basketball after the Olympics?
DAVID STERN: I think I'm in trouble already for my remarks yesterday to The Times, the other Times, of London, the original Times.
But I just think that I believe in the aspects of our game that we talk about because other governments talk about it. They talk about exercise, health, fitness, discipline, teamwork as great attributes, especially in a world that's dealing with obesity and diabetes.
And they also talk about the fact that our game is welcoming, inclusive, progressive and very diverse, and if I were an enterprise deciding where to invest, I would think that basketball, especially in a country that originally focused prior to the Olympics on the fact that basketball was a sport being played in the neighborhoods and especially for a country that's been bemoaning the fact that it's shut down playing fields and gymnasiums and they wanted to get kids out to be more active, the decision confounds me. I'm getting out of town fast after I just said that.
Q. Can you talk about the planned appeal to that decision?
DAVID STERN: We've said our peace, and let's see how they do it. If somebody wants to ask me about the attributes of basketball and why it's a solid investment for the youth of any country, I would be happy to talk to that.
Q. Just getting back to the microphones, just the fact that Dolan did it in reaction to Carmelo's suspension, I was just wondering what's your reaction to his motivation?
DAVID STERN: I don't know what you're talking about.
Q. He mic'd the court to pick up Carmelo's dialogue with??
DAVID STERN: And you know that how?
Q. We've reported it and we've been told that.
DAVID STERN: If every ?? I see, it's a fact because the New York Post reported it? That's the standard?
Q. Are you going to answer the question?
DAVID STERN: No, I'm actually?? I'm dealing with the??
Q. It's not just the New York Post, several outlets??
DAVID STERN: Right, a New Jersey outlet did it anonymously, too, and the New York Times reported it as fact. It's just been an interesting repertorial cycle for me. The fact of the matter is that there are microphones in our games all the time, and there were no rules violated with respect to any case that I'm aware of. And we encourage all of our teams to mic the court as best they can.
But I do think for our friends from other countries watching this, they ought to go back and look at the reporting sequence on this, because as yet there's no reported person willing to stand up and do anything other than file reports that other papers have filed. And to us?? if a team does something to eavesdrop on other players, they would be sanctioned because it would be against our rules. But there's a difference between eavesdropping such as putting a microphone in the locker room or the huddle other than the one that the league does and putting a microphone around the court to pick up the sounds of the game. And I'm just?? I was waiting for you to ask the question so I've been rehearsing the answer. Thank you.
Q. I'd like to ask you something about France. A few years back the NBA had some offices in France and then moved to London and then we also received some events but we didn't have any significant NBA events for the last two years, so I just wanted to know if you have any projects for that country.
ADAM SILVER: In terms of the office, it just made more sense to centralize our offices here in London. But France remains a terrific market for the NBA. Obviously you produce some of the best players in the world, and in terms of games, the reason we're here is because of the O2 Arena and the fact it's state?of?the?art and the equivalent of an NBA arena in the United States. As I mentioned before, there are plans under way to renovate Bercy, and we'll be very excited about returning to Paris to play games.
Q. I don't know if you meet with the people in charge during your trip. I wanted to know if there's any projects going on with the Euroleague.
ADAM SILVER: We continue to work with the Euroleague on the preseason games on Europe Live, which we've done for several years with them. We have an excellent relationship with Jordi Bertomeu and his senior management group, and one project we're talking about now is maybe doing something in conjunction with the European Final Four, which will be back here at this arena in London in May, and we talked about a joint marketing opportunity to continue to grow the sport of basketball.
DAVID STERN: The basketball fans in London are terrific, it's just that whatever the government may be doing with respect to the development of the game at the youth and potential elite level. We're here, the Olympics were a great success, the European Final Four is coming back, so there's?? we couldn't be happier and we couldn't be happier we're thinking about a collaboration with the Euroleague right back here in London.
Q. Just building on that point, I just wondered, obviously you're in London, heartland of English football. Just wondered if you can envisage a time when basketball is as popular as football in this country.
DAVID STERN: In England? Are you kidding? No chance. We just want to work our way up someplace underneath cricket and rugby. We have a wonderful amount to learn from the EPL. We met today with Richard Scudamore to swap stories and the like and get smarter. But we have so much room to improve and grow by leaps and bounds and then we would be some small fraction of the love that the British have for their football.
Q. Care to divulge any tips that he gave you?
DAVID STERN: Well, we swapped some, actually. But no, we're very admiring of the job that they have done, the growth of their league, and in fact the pickup of attention that they get in the States, because we like that. We think that the growth of sports, the growth of sports content, the growth of sports digitally is great, and the EPL is?? I don't want to insult the NFL, but I think one of them is the No.1 sports league in the world in terms of its revenues and its appeal to fans on a global basis.
We just see what we can learn by listening and meeting.
Q. About that cooperation with Euroleague, in which fields do you see that cooperation? Is it the footage? Is it PR or officiating or??
ADAM SILVER: Well, officiating is something we've always talked to the Euroleague about, but the discussions are mainly from a marketing standpoint about the game. As I said, we've done joint promotions together with these preseason games where NBA teams have played Euroleague teams, and what we talked to them about yesterday was continuing to promote the game through the Final Four in Europe where the very best of Europe is gathered, and we said maybe it's an opportunity for us to bring?? it'll still be during our season, so we said maybe we could bring over some NBA legends, conduct some clinics with the Euroleague, just general marketing. We both have a joint interest in growing the sport.
Q. What about Italy? You want to Milan for the preseason game. Is there any NBA?ready arena in my country and are you ever going to bring a regular season game there?
DAVID STERN: I'll answer that because I want Adam to have good relations going forward. The answer to your question is no. There's no NBA?ready arena in Italy. And actually no plans apparently. Originally there was a plan for one in Rome, which began construction for about 10 days and blessedly was put out of its misery, and I originally was told that there would be one in Milano for the expo, but that didn't come to pass, either, so last year we played at an arena that needed some work.
But the fans are great and the tradition of Italian basketball, and I think my?? just about my first or second international game was in Varese and then Milan in 1984. And indeed by '87 we invited I think it was Tracer Milano was the European champion. We invited them to a three?game competition with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Soviet national team.
But somehow Italian basketball, the infrastructure lost its edge, although the fans are some of our greatest; they write to us, they email us, they come to the U.S. to go to games. They ask for more. But the infrastructure has not kept pace.
Q. (No microphone.)
DAVID STERN: You know, increasingly it is. It's not the end of the story, but what you can reasonably ask fans and promoters to pay is one thing in the O2 world or Ülker or Palau Sant Jordi or O2, and what you can get out of the?? is it the Emporio? It's limiting in the economics, so it doesn't look good over time. But maybe the next commissioner will decide differently.
ADAM SILVER: Like David said, we love the Italians.
Q. Could you just clarify a little bit more about plans for next season? There is, I guess, a preseason game still in Manchester. Have you talked about opponents, and have you ruled out regular season games in Europe for next season?
ADAM SILVER: We're not ruling out regular season games, and there's a good chance we'll again play a regular season game in Europe. It's just as David mentioned before, it's very labor intensive. It's difficult the way our schedule is currently configured. But I think over time it's something we'd like to do more of.
Q. And Manchester is still on for preseason?
ADAM SILVER: Yes, it's something we're continuing to look at for preseason next year.
Q. It's not set for this year?
ADAM SILVER: It's not set yet, but we're looking at it.
Q. David, you said that you're going to leave office, I think, next year in February?
DAVID STERN: Yes.
Q. I wanted to ask you what are the last projects or maybe change of rules or whatever you want to carry out before you leave?
DAVID STERN: Nope, we're just going to keep managing day by day, improving everything hopefully as we go along. No special projects, no special wishes, no nothing. Let's just keep this going so that the lead that has been developed in social media, international, the current state of our game, the current state of our network relationships, our attendance, all are doing just fine, and what I'd like to do is if anything say a year from now they're even better. That's all.
Q. It means that after one season you are happy with the way everything goes with the new CBA?
DAVID STERN: I couldn't be happier. I think that the way it's been set up does deliver on the promise that Adam made when he was negotiating it, which is we're going to have more teams, all teams with the ability to compete, and that have the ability to be profitable. And there's nothing in our experience since it's been implemented to suggest otherwise. We're not fully into the agreement. It's got one more year before the luxury tax picks up and clicks into its higher level. But we see all good signs from the current revenue sharing and collective bargaining agreement.
Adam, are you with me on that?
ADAM SILVER: Absolutely.
Q. Just trying to find out what your plans are for NBA in Africa.
DAVID STERN: Well, Amadou Gallo Fall keeps adding more employees to the Johannesburg office. He started out with one and then he stole one of our employees from New York and brought him there, then he added a basketball operations, and he seems?? he's absolutely bound and determined to have an extended grass?roots presence and increase our television coverage, both of which he has achieved in a remarkable fashion. He keeps with visits from Basketball Without Borders. We went to South Africa for like the ninth year in a row. His sponsorship business, companies that want to fundus and increase our grass?roots and other presence are there, and so?? did I leave anything out?
So we think that Africa as a continent of a billion people whose development of smartphones and the like proceeding apace is an extraordinary potential market for the NBA, and if you don't believe me, ask Amadou, because he doesn't stop talking about it and he's been very forceful in helping us to generate a serious business there.