Meet the Member: “This truly is a global game and this World Cup will be broadcast in 190 countries”
July 12, 2023
David Crocker is the Executive Director for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which is now just 44 days away. We discuss basketball’s global impact, the tournament’s legacy and much more…
So David to kick us off, take us through your journey in sport?
I grew up in a massively sporty family, both my parents were very successful athletes and coaches when they were young and also went on to work as administrators. My brothers and sister played sports as well so you couldn’t move for sport in our house. I think this is why I have always found it easy to work in sport because it really is in my DNA. In a few months it will be 50 years since I started working in sport and that time has really flown.
In terms of basketball, I am massively indebted to my first coach, Gary. He was amazing at getting a bunch of six-year-olds to fall in love with the game and actually somehow get us to be good at it as well rather than just have fun – we did have plenty of fun at the same time though. He really taught me about the importance of youth coaches when it comes to bringing in the next generation of basketball players.
And to bring that back to my time at FIBA, when it comes around to November I will have been here for ten years. It has been great to see both the organisation and the World Cups have evolved over the last decade. From Spain to China and now we have three nations hosting it. For me, this has been the most important job of my career and I can’t wait for it to get underway.
You have been working towards this World Cup since 2020, what has that process been like and how are you feeling now we are not far away?
The task given to me by my Secretary General was to be the conductor of the orchestra. We have got three different countries hosting the tournament together so getting all three of these pulling in the same direction has really been a massive part of my role.
We started working on this tournament in 2020, so the first part of the planning phase was heavily disrupted by Covid. I didn’t even meet my colleagues in each of the countries for the first two years because of the travel bans that were in place. It also meant I couldn’t do site visits but the teams in all three countries were all brilliant. They have been excellent from day one of this project. They meet regularly as a three, both with and without me and have always been open and honest with each other and not kept any secrets which has been a massive help.
Despite being in a similar part of the world all three of the countries are very different both culturally and both in their maturity around the game of basketball. I am a massive fan of the logo we have come up with, each country is represented in its own way which is really important.
Basketball is an increasingly global game. You just have to look at the last few NBA MVPs to see that, how has that changed the FIBA World Cup?
Basketball really is an international sport. There are 120 international players playing in the NBA at the moment from around 35 to 40 countries, which is a great example of that. I am pretty sure that all of the teams have at least one international player. There is obviously a massive influence from the NBA on the World Cups. In 2019, we had around 60 players from the NBA competing and we are expecting the same again. You look at a team like Canada, they could have a dozen NBA players lining up from different teams but all wearing the red and white of Canada.
While the FIBA World Cup more than stands up on its own as an event, is it the case that the more NBA stars the better?
The two have a great relationship when it comes to growing the game around the world. The NBA does a great job of profiling the game and helping the sport get exposure. It does help people identify with the teams at the World Cups if they have NBA talent on them.
But on the other hand, one of the other things that is great about the World Cup is that it brings together all these different styles of basketball from across the globe. There is the athletic, running American style, then the European style which revolves around power and muscle, then the Asian style which has a lot of long range shooting and ball movement and then in Africa there are a lot of athletic and powerful players.
It is great because every game is different and you get to see NBA players playing with different players and in a different style.
In terms of viewership, is a large portion of that still coming from the States or is it spread globally and if so where are the real hot spots?
Like I said earlier, this truly is a global game and this World Cup is going to be broadcast in 190 countries. We will have a really strong online presence as well, particularly working with Tencent in China and FIBA’s own Courtside 1891 programme as well.
Taking it back to broadcast, we have the deal with ESPN in the States and they will be broadcasting all 92 games. We also have broadcast deals in Spain, France, China and the Baltics. In terms of numbers, it has potential to be massive. When Spain and Argentina competed for gold four years ago we had a total global TV audience of 160 million.
If we include online, the figures from four years ago are truly remarkable; across the whole tournament we had a total audience of 3 billion people. We have already seen a significant increase in interest for this tournament, five times in some areas, so I am really excited about the potential the tournament has.
What sort of legacy are you looking to leave in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia when the tournament is over?
There is a massive opportunity to grow our sport in not just the host cities but all around the globe. Back in 2002, New Zealand finished fourth in the World Cup in Indianapolis and that brought a country of five million people to an absolute standstill. Aeroplanes didn’t take off so people could watch the game, it really was incredible.
It is really about inspiring the next generation of players from across the globe that they can play this sport at the highest level. To follow that up though it is our responsibility to make sure that there is the infrastructure in place so that it can happen. We have built a 16,000 seater arena in Indonesia which will not just attract elite sports events, it will serve the community as well. We think it is something that the people of Jakarta should be really proud of.
In Japan, we are running programmes in the Okinawa Islands to help some of the kids out there because some of them don’t have the best upbringing out there. So if we can help these kids through basketball then that is something we need to be doing.
Then again, in the Philippines it is all about making sure the next generation of young men and women have the opportunities to play basketball. So in each country it really comes back to inspiring the next generations and giving them the opportunity to play our sport.
Lastly, please give us your all-time starting five?
I have a bit of a different one for this, I will be honest. I am going to pick our ambassadors because of what they have done for our game around the world. So I’ve got Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol and Luis Scola. Then to complete the team we have Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, both had brilliant careers and were great champions of the women’s game. So, I think I have got a pretty handy team there.