In Spite Of Thursday's NBA Sellout In London, Basketball A Tough Sell In Britain
When the NBA's N.Y. Knicks defeated the Detroit Pistons 102-87 at the O2 Arena in London Thursday night, they did so "in front of a capacity crowd that was certainly not coerced into attending," illustrating that the league "continues to have some traction in Britain," according to Steven Cotton of the N.Y. TIMES. However, while the NBA "can generate some interest" in the U.K. -- even if the Wednesday editions of many of the country’s national newspapers "had no advance coverage of the game" -- domestic basketball on a professional level in Britain "is another story." It "does not resonate anywhere near the way it does in such countries as Spain or Greece or Turkey." In fact, it often "does not resonate much at all." The British Basketball League has "struggled to establish itself," with many crowds for games registering in the triple digits and virtually no coverage in the sports pages. However, the BBL’s cup final last Sunday in Birmingham drew a capacity crowd of 7,500. BBL Commercial Dir David Leyden Dunbar said that among the country’s 10- to 16-year-olds, basketball "is the second-most popular sport," behind football. Dunbar: "But the numbers drop off a cliff at the age of 19, and the challenge for us is how we stop the rot." A "clear jump" in the NBA's popularity in Britain in the mid-90s came "partly courtesy of the extensive league coverage on Channel 4," then one of four free, over-the-air broadcast channels that were beamed into just about every home in the country (N.Y. TIMES, 1/16).