Energetic Sellout Crowd In London For Knicks-Pistons Suggests NBA Has "Legs" In England
It was a “true sellout” of 18,689 at London’s O2 Arena for Knicks-Pistons on Thursday with “almost every seat filled with fans who cheered for every basket” for the NBA’s 13th regular-season game overseas since ’90, according to Vince Ellis of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The arena was “jumping with sounds of American tunes." Before the game, the outside of the arena looked “straight from the NBA catalog” as it was “turned into a shrine to basketball's grand history.” Signage depicted the “great history of the NBA, including Magic Johnson's Lakers and Joe Dumars' Pistons in the '80s.” Pistons C Greg Monroe said, “This whole situation, the event, to the people of London is a great idea. I’m pretty sure they’re going to continue doing it. Guys had a lot of fun exploring a new city.” Ellis notes fans “looked the part dressed up in the gear of various NBA teams, including the Knicks, the Pistons and even the Golden State Warriors.” The “goal of the game was simple -- the league is looking to expand its reach into the European market with a stated goal of expansion across the pond.” Thursday's game was “another step” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/18). In N.Y., Steven Cotton writes, “Technically, this was a road game for the Knicks. But only technically.” There was “plenty of Knicks blue and orange in the stands, and there were numerous jerseys” with F Carmelo Anthony’s name on the back. Knicks coach Mike Woodson said, “We had great fan support here. It goes to show you that our sport is global, there’s no doubt about that. I thought the fans tonight were fantastic both ways, especially for us.” This was the third regular-season NBA game to be played in London, following the two ‘11 games between the Raptors and the Nets. But this game, “thanks to the presence of Anthony and the fact it was being broadcast live on British television, had a more vibrant feel than the other two.” When the NBA will “come back to England for another game is not yet known.” But the “energy that was coursing through the O2 Arena did suggest that basketball has some legs in England” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).
UNDER THE BIG TOP: The GUARDIAN’s Sean Ingle notes the game was “as much a spectacle as a contest; a giant slab of American sport transplanted into south-east London for one night only.” There were “shouts of ‘MVP MVP’” whenever Anthony sunk a basket. It was “pounding, exhilarating and relentlessly corporate.” During timeouts, fans “competed to win a pair of Adidas D Rose shoes or participated in the Foot Locker three-point contest for the chance to attend the All-Star Game in Houston” (GUARDIAN, 1/18). NBA Commissioner David Stern “claimed that the NBA ‘could not return often enough’ to their satellite base here at the O2.” In London, Oliver Brown notes the “only problem was that amid the unending din, whether from impromptu coaching clinics or Misha B’s shrill half-time show, it was often damnably difficult to tell whether there was still a basketball match taking place” (London TELEGRAPH, 1/18). NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver confirmed that the NBA “plans to play more preseason games next fall in Europe, including one in Manchester.” However, “no decision has yet been taken on whether London, or another city, will host another regular season contest next year.” Silver said, “In terms of the NBA and basketball, it's very encouraging what we've seen on this trip. It was encouraging when we were here at the Olympics. And with what we're seeing in the development of state of the art arenas.” Silver added, “The potential is there. It's a complex issue, as to whether the NBA should be expanding or if we should relocate franchises. Ultimately how much fans support there is. It's a long horizon in 20 years. The international opportunity is a huge one for the NBA” (ESPN.com, 1/17).