Scheduling, Proper Facilities Among NBA's Many Obstacles For European Expansion
The NBA clearly "is interested in expansion beyond North America," but the challenges of doing so "increase exponentially if one or more teams are based in Europe," according to Tim Bontemps of the N.Y. POST. NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver ahead of last week's Nets-Hawks game in London said that any potential NBA expansion plan "likely would be to include an entire European division, not just one or two teams." But Bontemps noted the "biggest hurdle" would be scheduling. Everyone involved in last week's game "admitted it took them at least a couple of days to get adjusted to the time zone, and that was with two Eastern Conference teams making the trip." Nets G Shaun Livingston said, "You think about the Western Conference opponents? ... That has to be a week to two-week trip, every time. I’m sure they’re thinking about it, but realistically, my opinion? No (it can’t work)." Bontemps wrote there also "would have to be NBA-ready arenas" in Europe if the league wanted to set up a division overseas, "and that simply isn't the case at the moment." Outside of O2 Arena and Berlin's O2 World, there "isn't another arena the league would consider moving into immediately." Another "thorny issue is what time the games are played," as the time difference from the U.S. "limits the NBA’s potential popularity in Europe." Silver acknowledged that the league is mulling the idea of "having an in-season tournament of some kind to potentially be held overseas, and also said the idea of holding the All-Star Game in London or somewhere else overseas is an intriguing possibility." Silver: "I don’t think there’s any question in terms of the popularity of the game we could pull it off" (N.Y. POST, 1/19). NBA TV’s Mike Fratello noted a large part of NBA Commissioner David Stern's legacy is his vision "to take this game global." Fratello: "It has become a global game right now” ("NBA Gametime," NBA TV, 1/17).
THEY JUST DON'T GET IT: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Owen Slot wrote by the time Stern retires on Feb. 1, he will have "had pretty much the entire continent of Europe kneeling at the altar of the NBA." Spain, Greece, Italy -- everyone with a "busted economy, they are all head-over-heels for the NBA." The U.K. has been the only "significant pocket of resistance." Pro basketball "just never caught on" there, "despite the efforts of Stern and his NBA marketing army." The U.K. is the "last unconquerable territory, too obsessed with kicking the ball rather than bouncing it" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/18).