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Nets, Hawks game underscores NBA's European hopes

Commissioner David Stern (L) speaks to the media following the NBA Board of Governors Meeting, during which he outlined his plans to step down in February 2014, on October 25, 2012 in New York City.

Tonight the Atlanta Hawks are set to face the Brooklyn Nets in London, the second of two international games scheduled this season.

That's on top of eight pre-season games in seven countries last fall.

League officials have made it clear; they want to expand the brand.

University of Pennsylvania Business Professor Scott Rosner says it’s easy to understand why the NBA wants to go international.

"There's a lot of money to be made," he says.

Thanks to the Olympics and international players like Yao Ming, Luol Deng and Tony Parker, the sport has carved out a loyal following around the globe.

Today the NBA brings in about $5 billion a year in revenue.

Rosner says establishing a handful of European teams could grow that pie.

"Just do the math on it, if you figure 5 franchises, $200 million dollars a year in revenue, yeah, that's a billion dollar proposition," says Rosner.

Charles Grantham, former Executive Director of the NBA Player's Union says a roster of international teams is "a long way off."

Grantham says to expand, the league has to figure out how to minimize the wear and tear on athletes from so much travel.

And maybe more important, determine whether foreign cities can support an NBA team.

"You know you are talking about considerable investment of time and money. 8 to 10 investors, developing arenas, marketing, etc, etc, etc," he says.

Even with its deep pockets, Grantham says the NBA can't afford to launch a European division of teams only to see it fold.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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