Demand For NBA In Europe On The Rise As Pistons Face Knicks In London
As the NBA's Detroit Pistons prepare to face the N.Y. Knicks Thursday at London's O2 Arena, marking the 16th league game in a foreign market, the "desire of the NBA to expand into fertile new territories is overt," according to Sean Ingle of the London GUARDIAN's The Sport Blog. Earlier this week, NBA Commissioner David Stern predicted that there would be multiple int'l teams playing in the NBA in 20 years. Given the Pistons vs. Knicks game sold out in four days, "that may not be such a pipe dream." On Thursday night, fans will get what NBA Europe Senior VP Benjamin Morel calls the "authentic NBA experience," with Pistons cheerleaders, mascots and crowd-participation events, such as kiss-cam, to "break up the dead time between timeouts." The experience will make "North Greenwich feel a little closer to Greenwich Village" (GUARDIAN, 1/16).
GROWING GLOBAL DEMAND: In Detroit, Vince Ellis noted Morel said that "there is demand for the NBA overseas." He cited "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 Thursday'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). In N.Y., Marc Berman reported 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.’’ The Knicks "arrived at the team hotel in downtown London without fanfare." No one was "staked out seeking autographs" (N.Y. POST, 1/16).