The first official exhibition game outside the United States and Canada with an NBA team took place in July 1988 when the Atlanta Hawks became the first NBA team to play in the Soviet Union. The Hawks defeated the Soviet Georgia All-Stars 85-84.
1988 Atlanta Hawks Tour of the Soviet Union
7/25/88 Atlanta Hawks 85 – Soviet National Team 84 (played in Tbilisi, Soviet Republic of Georgia)
7/27/88 Atlanta Hawks 110 – Soviet National Team 105, (OT) (played in Vilnius , Lithuania)
7/30/88 Soviet National Team 132 – Atlanta Hawks 123 (played in Moscow)
The first McDonald’s Open in Europe took place on October 21, 1988 at the Palacio de Deportes in Madrid, Spain where the Boston Celtics defeated Real Madrid 111-96.
Since 1988, the NBA has participated in eight McDonald’s Championships (16 games featuring an NBA team), has staged six preseason games and has played five exhibition games vs. FIBA teams in Europe.
Since 1988, the NBA has been to the following countries in Europe to stage games:
- Spain (*1988, *1990, 1994, 1996, 2003)
- Italy (*1989, 1994, *1999)
- France (*1991, 1994, *1997, 2003)
- Germany (*1993, 1996)
- England (1993 (two games), *1995)
- Russia (1988, 2004)
* McDonald’s Championship
The first NBA preseason game in Europe took place in 1993 between the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks in London, England at Wembley Arena.
The NBA played an exhibition game in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 11, 1999 when the Miami Heat defeated Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv, 126-91.
Since 1992, the NBA has staged 22 games in Latin America – 16 in Mexico, five in Puerto Rico and one in the Dominican Republic. Of the 22 games, all have been preseason match-ups except for one, a regular season game staged in Mexico in December 1997, where Houston defeated Dallas, 108-106, in front of a sold-out Palacio de los Deportes.
The 2003 NBA Japan Games between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Seattle SuperSonics marked the NBA’s sixth staging (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2003) of regular season games in Japan since 1990 and were the second visit for each team. In 1990, the NBA became the first American professional sports league to stage regular season games outside of North America when the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz opened the 1990-91 season with two games in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym.
The first-ever NBA games 2004 in China took place October 14 and 17 when the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings played preseason games in Beijing and Shanghai. The NBA is the first American professional sports league to stage games in China. The historic NBA China Games 2004 were played on October 14 in Shanghai at the Shanghai Stadium to a capacity of 11,333 seats, and on October 17 in Beijing at the Capital Stadium to a capacity of 17,903 seats.