SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s first introduction to NBA basketball was through Michael Jordan's cult classic "Space Jam" movie in the 1990s.
Rarely would he ever get to check out live NBA action, though.
“I was watching 'Space Jam' when I was a kid but that was pretty much the only thing I knew about the NBA,” Gobert admitted. “Once I got 13 or 14 years old, I started watching a lot of videos on YouTube and NBA.com and I started following the NBA ball.”
For the younger generation growing up in Gobert’s homeland, that could be changing soon as NBA basketball may be headed to France sooner rather than later.
Ahead of Thursday’s NBA London Game 2019, featuring the New York Knicks versus the Washington Wizards, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference.
Although Silver was told he wasn’t allowed to break news, he certainly did with the announcement of an NBA regular-season game possibly headed to France soon.
“It is something we are looking very closely at, and that is playing a regular-season game in Paris for next season,” Silver said during the presser.
Silver called it “very important” to organize this game in France because it “has historically been a terrific market for the NBA.”
“As you know, we have several players from France as well,” Silver said. “I know when we’ve played many exhibition games in Paris over the years — I remember being there with Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls and the tremendous excitement around that team. It will continue, I think, to be an important market.
“We took a number of years off because, of course, your arena was being renovated and upgraded,” he continued. “I haven’t yet been to what used to be Bercy Arena, but I hear it’s fantastic. So we’re looking forward to coming back to Paris.”
It certainly makes sense, as France was among the most-represented countries of the 108 international players on opening-night rosters for the 2018-19 season — with Gobert being one of those nine guys.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year hails from Saint-Quentin, France, and has developed into one of the league’s most feared rim protectors. He is all for bringing NBA hoops to his home country.
“It’s a tremendous amount of fans in France that love basketball, that follow it every day even though the games are at like two or three in the morning,” Gobert said Friday. “There’s so many fans that would love to have a game in France, and I think it would be big time.”
Gobert’s team is familiar with playing games internationally, as Utah also played its first-ever regular-season game in Mexico City against Orlando last December.Comment on this story
Prior to that, the Jazz had played three preseason games in Mexico City plus two regular-season games in Tokyo, Japan, during the 1990-91 season.
The NBA’s Global Games are in place to increase the league’s fan base on an international stage and Gobert sees France as the perfect setting.
“It would be great for the NBA, for French basketball,” Gobert said. “It’s a little far from Utah but it definitely would be great for the game in general. We’ve played in London, but it’s not that much further to go to France, it’s pretty much the same distance, so it’s great.”