There were thousands of spectators who filled the parking lots of Sao Paulo’s Shopping Eldorado mall. There were hundreds of kids in Milan who wanted to get an autograph from the Sacramento Kings’ Buddy Hield after they watched Game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals with him. And there were dozens upon dozens of basketball fans packed into the viewing party room in Hermosillo, Mexico.
As the NBA Finals make history for being held for the first time outside the United States, the effects of Toronto’s now-legendary Jurassic Park are reaching the far corners of the world — with thousands of basketball enthusiasts gathering at various venues to watch the Toronto Raptors face the Golden State Warriors.
According to the NBA, there are Jurassic Park-style viewing parties being held in countries including the Dominican Republic, Brazil, China, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the Philippines.
Some of these countries have held similar parties in the past, but the trend is reaching new heights and expanding as part the league’s efforts to bring the love of the game into different markets, said Julio Manteiga, NBA’s director of communications for Latin America.
“These ideas came about because we wanted to bring games to fans in foreign countries and our partners have been very good with participating in them,” he said, referring to Toronto’s Jurassic Park as an example for fans in remote parts of the world to feel closer and more engaged in the games.
For the first time, the NBA is livestreaming these Finals to fans in India through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for free.
The NBA says this year’s final matchup has the feeling of a “global event,” with games being broadcast live in 215 countries and territories in 50 different languages. There are 14 international television and radio networks providing live on-site commentary.
In addition, this year’s team rosters are truly international, something the NBA says increases interest from fans around the world and adds a global touch to the games.
The Raptors have Chris Boucher from Canada, Pascal Siakam from Cameroon, Serge Ibaka from the Republic of Congo, OG Anunoby from the U.K. and Marc Gasol from Spain. Also, Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri is Nigerian, and coach Nick Nurse’s staff includes assistants from Italy, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Canada.
The Warriors roster has centre Andrew Bogut from Australia and Jonas Jerebko from Sweden.
The NBA brought Charlotte Hornets’ point guard Kemba Walker to Game 1’s viewing party at the Shibuya Stream Hall in Tokyo, Japan. At the same time, Sacramento Kings’ Hield was in Milan to interact with basketball fans and catch the game with them, as part of this year’s NBA Crossover — a cultural exhibition displaying the convergence of the NBA and popular culture.
At the NBA House in Sao Paulo, the NBA Finals have become a two-week period of “non-stop basketball fun,” according to a statement from the NBA.
Toronto’s Jurassic Park — thousands of fans packed outside the arena to watch the game on the giant screens — has spread to many parts of Canada too, with fans celebrating the team’s first trip to the NBA Finals. As many as 36 cities outside of Toronto have been granted permission to host public viewing parties, according to Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE).
“People in Vaughan and across the country are uniting in excitement for the Toronto Raptors,” said Vaughan’s Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua in a statement inviting residents to game viewing parties in what has been dubbed “Jurassic Park Vaughan,” in the city hall’s courtyard. Pre-game celebrations will start at 7:30 p.m. on game days.
The city of Ajax is holding its own “Jurassic Park of the East” at Pat Bayly Square (where all the NBA Finals games will be streamed live to fans in attendance.
“Come and cheer the Toronto Raptors,” said Mayor Shaun Collier in a statement.
Other GTA cities including Mississauga, Burlington and Brampton are hosting similar events.
Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo