SINGAPORE: The world’s top basketball property, the NBA (National Basketball Association), is planning to establish a permanent base in Singapore to reach out to the more than half—a—billion people in South—east Asia to develop the sport.
As part of an aggressive multi—pronged campaign to help basketball grow, executives of NBA, which according to Forbes magazine had revenues of US$4 billion (S$5.13 billion) last year, have also been in talks with the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) to support the country’s Vision 2030 for sports.
In an exclusive interview with TODAY at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel last week, NBA Asia senior vice—president and managing director Scott Levy said that with the sport getting more attention in the region, the opportunity to get more people into the game is "tremendous".
The New Yorker said they will put out more events to attract fans and while he declined to reveal the details, TODAY understands this includes the Singapore launch of an annual NBA—organised 3—on—3 tournament later this year for local teams, with top NBA stars in attendance.
It is a step up from the one—off Basketball Without Borders Asia camp here in 2010 that was conducted by such big names as Trevor Ariza, Al Horford, Taj Gibson, Francisco Garcia and Corey Brewer.
But Levy stressed their interest in Asia goes beyond promoting the NBA property and that they have a long—term commitment to help basketball federations in the continent develop the sport.
"Our strategy from media and merchandise to events is unique and specific to each country," said Levy, who makes regular trips here.
"In Singapore, we sit down with the SSC and STB (Singapore Tourism Board) to understand what they are trying to achieve and which programmes we do around the world are the right ones for Singapore, so that we can jointly benefit from what is going on here.
"We have been talking to the SSC in detail for three years because we hope to support the growth of sport here through their Vision 2030.
"They were a major part of our Basketball Without Borders Asia event two years ago."
While the NBA has been conducting events in Asia for two decades, its aggressive push into South—east Asia only started in 2010.
Last year, it launched the 3—on—3 tournament in Thailand and the Philippines, and Levy wants to get more countries on board to pave the way for a regional championship in 2013.
With governments in the region increasingly supporting sport, Levy said the time is right for NBA to do more to promote basketball.
Said the 45—year—old: "We’ve got 600 million people in South—east Asia and with infrastructure development and new arenas like the Sports Hub in Singapore coming up, this is an up—and—coming region.
"The urban development puts basketball in a good spot and the potential for growth is tremendous."
The NBA operates from a regional headquarters in Hong Kong, with offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Taiwan, South Korea and Mumbai, but Levy sees Singapore as an ideal base to reach the markets surrounding it.
He said the Lion City offers opportunities for all of the brand’s business lines and could potentially host a centre for it as well as stores, restaurants and bigger NBA events.
"We need people on the ground and it is in our business plan to have an office at some point in Singapore from where we can roll out to other regions," Levy said.
"Given the infrastructure, the facilities, ease of transport, the airport and the airline, it is a city where you can definitely demonstrate your product.
"If we have to bring talent to Singapore, there is a tremendous amount on offer here like the Sports Hub and state—of—the—art facilities for every major sport that allow us to show our event or property the way we want to."