Wolves Wednesday: The other two games Minnesota played outside the U.S.


Tonight marks another chapter in the movement to globalize U.S. sports, as the Wolves kick off the 2013-14 NBA Global Games series with a matchup against San Antonio in Mexico City.

To give you an idea of why the NFL has decided to play games in Toronto and London, and the NBA has followed suit with Mexico City and London as regular season destinations for their talent, here's the throng of reporters to greet Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea yesterday.

Where there is overwhelming demand, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NBA commissioner David Stern have become determined to supply, that's just good business.

But if you think this is anything new for the NBA or even the Wolves in particular, you'd have to take a look back to the 1999-2000 season.

The rising popularity of the NBA in Japan spawned the NBA's Japan games, and that's how the league decided the Wolves would open their season 14 years ago.

Originally scheduled for a smaller venue, Minnesota's back-to-back with the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 5-6 would be moved to the Tokyo Dome, which usually houses baseball, and can fit 55,000.

The Wolves throwback lineup in game one featured Kevin Garnett along with Rasho Nesterovic, Anthony Peeler, Terrell Brandon, and Wally Szczerbiak in his first game as a pro.

It was no match for Nick Anderson-led Sacramento, who got a five-point victory in a balanced scoring effort that saw six Kings reach double-figures.

Night two Garnett and the Wolves would get their first international victory behind KG's 31 points and 12 rebounds, a 114-101 final.

Neither game sold out, but a combined 66,000 fans saw the Sacramento Kings and Minnesota split the series.

Garnett, still just 23 at the time, said of the trip to Tokyo "it's like being a rock star," while then-governor Jesse Ventura, who made the trip to see the team, said it was a "thrill" to have the Wolves in Japan.

Just three years later, the Wolves would play an exhibition in the Dominican Republic, the NBA's first international game since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Since, the Wolves have played exhibitions in Paris and France, but this will mark their first meaningful game action since the 1999 season opening series.

Perhaps even more meaningful are the activities the Wolves have done in the community leading up to tonight's game, as they held a clinic for Special Olympics athletes yesterday.

Here's a few samples of their work.

Whether the Wolves bump their international regular season record to 2-1 or fall to 1-2, the globalization of the NBA undoubtedly benefits from the community outreach done by Minnesota and all the teams that participate in international duty.

Does this worldwide exposure mean a franchise is coming to Mexico City, London, or even Japan?

Even in 1999, Stern said "I don't see that happening in the near future." Stern is now serving his last season at the helm for the league, and the near future has passed him by.

While he hasn't gotten that task done, he has maintained the 35-year tradition of sharing the NBA with the global community, and we wouldn't expect this to be the last Wolves home game played outside Minnesota.

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