It sucks when your 8879 miles away from your favorite NBA team. They’ve just lost a game and you have the rest of the day to yourself. You are angry, frustrated and looking for answers. You barely saw the highlights as your Internet connection broke down and all you have is that box score staring at you in the face and the 5 seconds of highlights on Sportscenter that show the other team winning.
This is what it’s like when your on the other side of the planet trying to religiously follow an NBA team. It’s not easy, it’s not too hard, but it really doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
The NBA is founded largely on it’s North American fan-base from each of the 30 cities. Home-town pride is a big thing with people boasting about how their players are better than others.
With an international fan like myself it’s tougher to gloat in any rivalries that are undertaken between cities like Boston and Los Angeles. Oversees we have rivalries between friends when the Cleveland Cavaliers go up against the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s not really conventional, but nothing really ever is with fandom like this.
The internet actually has played a large role in the NBA expanding into the global markets. NBA League Pass Broadband is a godsend to fans like myself. We can watch every NBA game, from start to finish, online for roughly $150. It’s great, it’s probably why my passion for the Hornets has increased to it’s highest level ever.
It all started with a logo, a simple, colorful, fun logo. The Hornet logo to me was different, the teal blue was easy on the eyes, but fun to the heart. As a kid I had a basketball that had the old Charlotte Hornets logo on it. I don’t remember where it went, but I’d like to think it moved to New Orleans. As a teenager I invested my time heavily into video games, particularly sports ones.
I played Rugby and Cricket throughout my life, so I was looking for something different. So I picked up a copy of NBA Live 2005, scrolled through the teams and saw that Hornets logo, it was then that I decided that this would be my team. Different, not the norm, but my team.
I remember that 2007-08 season. I remember it not because I got to see Chris Paul dominate the NBA, but because each day, at high school, I’d log on to NBA.com, check the score to see New Orleans winning, yet again. Every week I’d see them win, I’d get a little bit excited because the year before I thought, “Hang on, maybe we can explode onto the scene.” We kept winning and I was immersed. By the end of the regular season I was excited for the playoffs and it went from there. But that was what it was like, I had no idea just how well Chris Paul was playing, all I had was box-scores and daily highlights, this has since changed in recent years.
I’ve never been to a Hornets game (I’ve been to one NBA game between the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic) and would love to go one day. I can imagine the playoff atmosphere at the New Orleans Arena, it would be amazing, but perhaps I’ll never get to see it.
It’s tough being an international fan, sometimes not even the franchises management know’s of their reach. I know quite a few international Hornets fans that wake up in the early hours of the morning, take an early lunch break at 12 to watch them online or do something similar. It’s the passion of these fans that gets severely underrated when we see crowd attendance go down, ownership problems continue and star players whinge about being in a small market.
The Small-Market Expansion
Despite the notion that small markets “fail because they have no reach outside of their small population,” maybe finding reach oversees could be the answer to their problems. Maybe the Hornets take a South American, preseason trip, and do it annually. Maybe they could extend their merchandise operations there offering special deals and apparel. Maybe even thinking on a smaller scale, they could open up the TV market to all of Louisiana, neighboring Arkansas and Mississippi (I do realise these aren’t big basketball markets, but it’s not for a lack of trying, at least offering it on a typical TV deal).
I know it’s tough being a small market franchise, but that’s no excuse not to exploit the international fans and domestic region, after all, never underestimate the power of passion not matter your location. I know it’s likely that no one from New Orleans HQ reads this, knows about this site, knows about fans overseas. But it’s an opportunity they are glancing over when they do their marketing strategies. Sure it might cost a lot to do the afformentioned things, but opening up your TV market has to be a priority. Making sure your brand is not only established, but a valuable asset to the NBA is a must when trying to on-sell it to a local owner.
I know most of these things sounds crazy, but international fans like myself are some of the most passionate out there. We can be exploited, we can be won over, you just need to invest in the right way. It could be the way this organisation transforms itself from a dead-pan to a hot-bed with a wide reach all across the the Southern region and across the globe.