Finals notebook: Around the world, fans are watching

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Miami coach Erik Spoelstra makes no effort to hide his excitement or appreciation when journalists from the Philippines join virtual news conferences to ask him questions during the NBA Finals.

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In his mother’s homeland, they are most definitely watching the playoffs.

Out of all the measured international markets, the Philippines has the largest average audience for live games during this season’s playoffs — and Spoelstra isn’t the only reason why. They’re huge LeBron James fans there as well, as evidenced by where the clicks are coming from.

When James turned 35 this past December, the NBA did a video of the top 35 plays of his career. It’s been viewed more than 42 million times — with roughly 25% of those clicks, or about 10 million views, coming from the Philippines.

The top five international markets viewing Los Angeles Lakers games on NBA League Pass this season were, in order, Australia, the Philippines, Brazil, Spain and Mexico. For the Heat, it’s virtually the same order: Australia, the Philippines, Spain, Brazil and Mexico.

Fans in China have seen fewer games this season than usual after state broadcaster CCTV suspended its relationship with the NBA last October. Game 5 of the NBA Finals, however, was being shown on CCTV, the broadcaster announced Friday -- and James’ popularity there has been enormous for the entirety of his 17-year career.

FOUNDATION BOARD

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan are among the inaugural board of directors for the newly formed NBA Foundation.

Also on the board: New Orleans Pelicans owner Gayle Benson, Atlanta Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler, NBA Board of Governors chairman Larry Tanenbaum from the Toronto Raptors, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts, Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris and Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes.

Plans for the foundation were finalized in August. The foundation will work to spur economic growth in the Black community, with initial funding of $300 million over the next decade. Each team will donate $1 million annually, or $30 million collectively, over those 10 years.

RAISING AWARENESS

The National Basketball Players Association released a video Friday, done in partnership with Black Players for Change, to continue addressing the issues of racial inequality and police brutality — both major points of discussion during the NBA’s time in the bubble at Walt Disney World.

It was, the groups said, the latest step “to keep social justice and racial equality at the forefront of the conversation heading into the upcoming election.”

Among the NBA players who took part in the filming of the video during their stays in the bubble: Malcolm Brogdon, Jaylen Brown, Andre Iguodala, Jayson Tatum and Austin Rivers.

“We stand with our brothers from Black Players for Change as a reminder that we will not forget about the victims of police brutality and racial injustice and we will not stop fighting for change,” NBPA President Chris Paul said.

FEW SWEEPS

There were only three sweeps in this season’s playoffs, all in the first round, all of them in the Eastern Conference.

That’s the first time since 2014 that there were no sweeps in the conference semifinals, conference finals or NBA Finals. Before that, the last time there were no sweeps in the last three rounds was 2008.

JAMES’ NUMBERS

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers entered Game 5 of the NBA Finals just 25 points away from matching Karl Malone for No. 2 on the league’s career scoring list — counting both regular-season and postseason games.

He passed him, scoring 40 points in the Lakers' Game 5 loss.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads that list with 44,151 points. James now has 41,704. Malone has 41,689.

GAME 5 REFS

Marc Davis, Kane Fitzgerald and Eric Lewis got the officiating assignment for Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Davis and Fitzgerald both worked Game 1 of the series; Lewis worked Game 2.

The NBA selects 12 referees for the title series and, typically, each works once between Games 1 through 4. Often, the veteran referees within that group are called upon to work a second game in the finals, depending on how long the series goes.

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