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Why the NBA wants to cover prospects before they enter the league

After streaming Victor Wembanyama’s games last season, the NBA is doubling down on covering prodigies.

Victor Wembanyama during a French League game in April, which was streamed in the NBA app. (Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
Victor Wembanyama during a French League game in April, which was streamed in the NBA app. (Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

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The NBA knows how to market its stars as well as, if not better than, any other sports league. Now, it wants to start promoting them before they even get there.

The NBA is launching a new initiative today called "Future Starts Now," which will showcase the next generation of stars in a centralized hub on the NBA app.

"Future Starts Now" will feature everything from live game broadcasts and highlights to behind-the-scenes content and player interviews.

The league will also be unveiling new dedicated social media handles to help fans follow the action.

The big picture strategy

The NBA wants to make its app a one-stop shop for all things basketball — not just NBA content. One way to expand beyond the league? Cover the prodigies who could one day be the faces of it.

We saw this last year when the NBA App began streaming Victor Wembanyama's French League games ahead of him becoming the No. 1 pick in the draft.

The NBA App also streamed Peach Jam games for the first time this summer, showcasing America's best high school prospects during the annual Nike event.

The landscape shift

The elite youth basketball landscape has shifted dramatically in recent years, with the likes of Overtime Elite and the NBA's G League Ignite providing new pathways to the pros.

Top prospects are now building their brands on social media and becoming household names at an early age, almost demanding that the NBA step in and start telling their stories.

"We see and hear from our fans that they want a central home for 'where is the next generation of players playing,'" says NBA senior VP Andrew Yaffe.

The NBA is a global league, both in terms of its talent and its fan base. So naturally, "Future Starts Now" will cater to both domestic and international audiences.

"There are more prospects than ever in more parts of the world than ever — and more opportunities than ever to tell those stories," says Yaffe.

"We can bring American players to our global audience, and we can bring global players to our American audience."

To tip off this new initiative, the NBA App will stream this weekend’s Nike World Basketball Festival in New York City, featuring some of the world's top prospects.