Demand For NBA In Europe On The Rise As Pistons Host Knicks In London
There were not any signals earlier this week "that the NBA was about to descend" on London's O2 Arena outside of a sign featuring several players from the Pistons and Knicks, but the scene will change tomorrow when a sell-out crowd watches the "16th regular-season game in a foreign market," according to Vince Ellis of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The NBA is "seeking to increase its global reach," with Commissioner David Stern earlier in January "predicting ... that multiple franchises will be in Europe within 20 years." NBA Europe Senior VP Ben Morel said that "there is demand for the NBA overseas." He cited "how tickets were gone in four days and the popularity of basketball during last summer's London Olympics when Team USA won the gold." Players like Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Heat F LeBron James are "internationally recognized, and with the growing popularity worldwide, there is a thought that Europe is a natural fit for the league." Morel said of tomorrow's game, "Because there's no game during the regular season physically happening on the ground ... it's just something that gets the authenticity and real experience to our fans." Ellis noted Morel "promised a lively atmosphere," but the question is "what happens after Thursday?" Ellis: "Can the NBA grow to be more than an entertainment novelty in Europe?" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/15). Knicks F Steve Novak said, "We understand the future of the NBA and future of basketball. It’s hard not to think one day the NBA won’t expand overseas. Obviously, there’s a ton of NBA fans in London and pretty much everywhere in Europe.’’ In N.Y., Marc Berman notes the Knicks "arrived at the team hotel in downtown London without fanfare." No one was "staked out seeking autographs" (N.Y. POST, 1/16).
SHARING THE GLOBAL SPOTLIGHT: The FREE PRESS' Ellis in a separate piece noted Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Dennis Mannion "relishes the global spotlight" tomorrow's contest against the Knicks provides. Mannion said, "It shows how big this game is. It's become a worldwide game with significance. To go over and play a game in London, undoubtedly to a sold-out arena, it's just very special and unique." He added, "To me the extra branding you get from that and NBA TV is a big deal for the franchise." Ellis noted PS&E used the game "as a branding opportunity in Detroit." Media outlets were used to "promote membership in the team's fan clubs with a possible trip to London as a reward." Mannion said that the "clubs' growth reflects that effort" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/13). Meanwhile, in Detroit, Vincent Goodwill reported tomorrow's game will "come with all the bells and whistles of a normal NBA game, possibly down to the music that's played during timeouts and halftime." The Pistons' normal "score crew, renowned announcer John Mason and some of The Palace's in-house entertainment" will make the trip to London because it is a Pistons home game (DETROITNEWS.com, 1/15).