The NBA is in London. Right now.
The land of HP Sauce and The Kings Speech is getting a real NBA game. Well, it’s not like they are getting the NBA’s best product, they are getting the Nets against the Raptors (tip off at 3 p.m. Eastern Friday on NBA TV). They did not get Manchester United against Arsenal. This is more Blackburn against Birmingham. I’m mot sure what kind of crowd that would draw if those two English Premiere League teams played in New York.
But London will sell out the O2 Arena to see Deron Williams against Andrea Bargnani. It is part of the NBA’s effort to create a global brand as the elite basketball league on the planet. It is part of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s plan to make his team more international.
But Doug Smith of the Toronto Star makes another good point (via Ball Don’t Lie).
Basketball is one of the marquee events of any Summer Olympics — especially with the presence of the globally popular NBAers who dot many of the national team rosters — but the game has no real grassroots appeal in London.
So part of the reason for the NBA games here is to increase awareness and, potentially, increase attention during the London Games so that organizers aren’t left scrambling to sell tickets to what’s normally a virtual sellout event.
No doubt basketball will sell out, and we here in the states will get to see all of it we want (right here on NBC). But this will not be the biggest sport with the locals. It’s not what they will be talking about in the pubs. And sending the Nets and Raptors isn’t really going to change that. It’s a baby step, if any kind of step at all.
As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.
For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.
Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.
Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.
Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.
Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.
Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.
Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.
A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.
“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…
“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”
Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.
The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.
It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.
But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.
Best. Dunk. Ever.
Weis was never the same.
In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.
Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.