The NBA Global Games are a series of games featuring NBA teams that are played outside the United States and Canada. Its purpose is to bring teams from the National Basketball Association (NBA) to play games against either another NBA team or a foreign club.
The games themselves are played under NBA rules, which differ slightly from the FIBA rules which the foreign teams normally play under. Court markings and dimensions also differ slightly.
In 1987, the McDonald's Championship was introduced. While the first edition was held in Milwaukee, the following editions of the event were held in Europe, with the NBA teams emerging victorious against their European counterparts in each staging. The McDonald's Championship was discontinued in 1999.
The first regular season NBA games outside North America were held in Tokyo, Japan in 1990, with the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz splitting the two-game series. Since then four other editions of the NBA Japan Games were held, with the last games being played in Saitama in 2003.
In 1991, the Miami Heat and the Washington Bullets played a preseason game in Nassau, Bahamas, marking the first NBA preseason game in the Caribbean. The following year, the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks played a preseason game in Mexico City, in the first NBA game held in Latin America. Several other preseason matches would follow in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico (under the name NBA Challenge), but it was not until 1997 that the NBA decided to hold its first regular season game in Latin America, featuring the Mavericks and the Rockets in Mexico City.
While the NBA has had a history of sending teams to Europe to play against the local clubs, it was not until 1993 that the league decided to send two of its teams to Europe to play a pair of preseason matches against each other. An exhibition series between the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks was held in London, United Kingdom, a precursor of what would later be called the NBA Europe Live Tour. Further games were held in Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Spain and Turkey. It was not until 2011, however, that a regular season matchup was first played in Europe. The first regular season games in London pitted the New Jersey Nets against the Toronto Raptors, with the Nets sweeping the two-game series.
In 2004, the NBA held a pair of preseason games in Shanghai and Beijing, as part of the NBA China Games. The two-game series between the Sacramento Kings and the Houston Rockets also marked the homecoming of sorts for Yao Ming, who as the top overall pick of the 2002 NBA draft and a perennial all-star, helped popularize the NBA in China. The China Games eventually became a regular in the NBA's preseason schedule.
The 2014 NBA Global Games began in October with two San Antonio Spurs friendlies versus EuroLeague teams Alba Berlin and Fenerbahçe Ülker at Berlin and Istanbul respectively. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat played a preseason game at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro. Then the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings played two matches at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and the MasterCard Center in Beijing. Like the previous season, two regular season Global Games were scheduled in Mexico City and London; the Mexico City game between the Timberwolves and the Rockets on November 12 was played without incident.