The Oklahoma City Thunder will begin the 2013-14 season overseas.
For the first time in franchise history, the Thunder will play a set of preseason games abroad, the NBA announced Tuesday morning.
The Thunder will travel to Istanbul, Turkey to play an exhibition game against Fenerbahce Ulker on Saturday, Oct. 5 before taking on the Philadelphia 76ers in Manchester, England on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
It’s been speculated for years that the Thunder would soon travel abroad as part of the league’s annual exhibition tour of international cities. NBA commissioner David Stern only added to that speculation when he said at All-Star Weekend last month that the league is “going to be doing lots of exhibition traveling, I have no doubt, this coming preseason.”
Oklahoma City next season will be among eight teams playing eight games in six countries. Other teams that will travel overseas include Indiana, Houston, Chicago, Washington, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Providing fans with an authentic NBA experience is an important part of our efforts to grow the game globally,” Stern said in a press release. “This fall, nearly a third of our teams will embark on a global tour that will celebrate the game of basketball, give our international fans a chance to connect with NBA teams and players, and leave a lasting impact in each of the communities we visit.”
The NBA has held preseason games internationally since 1978 to help expand the league’s global growth. In that time, teams have played 138 preseason and regular season games in 19 countries and territories across Europe, the Americas and Asia.
At the start of this season the NBA played seven preseason games in seven cities across six countries. The Boston Celtics played Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul, Turkey to kick off the 2012 preseason, losing 97-91 inside the near 14,000-seat Ulker Sports Arena.
Fenerbahce, which competes in the Euroleague, won back-to-back Turkish Cups in 2010 and 2011 and is considered one of the top organizations in Europe. It’s the same team for which Thunder forward Thabo Sefolosha briefly competed in late 2011 during the NBA lockout.
In 2010, the Thunder hosted CSKA Moscow inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, defeating the Russian club 97-89.
The Thunder-Sixers game will be the first NBA preseason game played in Manchester.
The remainder of the Thunder’s 2013 preseason schedule will be announced at a later date. In past years, the Thunder played at least one exhibition game inside Chesapeake Energy Arena and at least one inside the BOK Center in Tulsa.
The Sixers will go on to play Uxue Bilbao Basket in Bilbao, Spain on Oct. 6. The Rockets and Pacers will play in Manila, Philippines on Oct. 10 and again on Oct. 13 in Taipei, Taiwan. The Bulls and Wizards will play on Oct. 12 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the Warriors and Lakers will play on Oct. 15 in Beijing, China and again on Oct. 18 in Shanghai, China.
It will be the first-ever NBA preseason games in Brazil and the Philippines, as well as the city of Bilbao, Spain.