NBA Apple Jun 15, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic gestures to the crowd during the championship parade after the Denver Nuggets won the 2023 NBA Finals. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Apple turned up the heat for international soccer legend Lionel Messi on his way to the MLS. And so you may wonder what they could do for another sports league—the NBA.

Benjamin Swinburne of Morgan Stanley joined CNBC this week. The head of U.S. media research discussed the streaming wars, the MLS, and the impact that Apple’s MLS deal could have on future negotiations.

“I don’t think MLS is the end of Apple’s ambitions in sports,” Swinburne admitted. He pointed out that by 2029, every sports league will have its rights come up. The NBA is the hottest topic right now — their deal expires before the 2025-26 season–and negotiations could be going on now.

“And the thing that makes Apple and the NBA really interesting is the NBA, we believe, has the ability to sell their rights globally the way MLS did. And Apple, of course, loves the idea of a global offering given their massive, global installed base. I would not be surprised at all if we saw Apple come away with part of the NBA packages as we look ahead to 25-26 for the NBA,” Swinburne said.

The NBA is a huge global game that keeps extending its reach. The league’s last three recipients of the MVP award aren’t from the US. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece, by way of Nigeria), Nikola Jokić (Serbia), and Joel Embiid (Cameroon) have all taken home the award. So as they continue to grow the game even more, going further might be worth it. So it does make a lot of sense, in that regard, as to why the NBA could be a glove fit for Apple.

Messi and the MLS will be a test drive for the streaming service. If all goes well, then the Association could be next.


About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022