The New York Knicks and Washington Wizards spent much of last week in London promoting the NBA game (even if those teams may not be the best ambassadors of the beautiful game), the latest in a line of NBA teams that have played a regular season game in the O2 Arena since the 2010-11 season.
But why London? Basketball in England trails soccer, rugby, cricket, field hockey, auto racing and a host of other sports in popularity. Basketball is widely popular in large swaths of Europe, but not where the NBA takes its annual game.
“One of the reasons London is considered to be so important is that it appears to be, for us, a hub in Europe,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said when addressing the media before that Knicks/Wizards game. “It’s easily accessible for people from throughout Europe. This particular facility, the O2 arena, last I looked is the highest grossing arena in the world and they do a fantastic job hosting major events and that has made it very easy for us.”
Now the NBA appears ready to push its product more in the markets in Europe that care more about basketball.
Silver suggested the NBA could be taking its product to the continent next year, specifically Paris.
“I’m told I’m not allowed to break news today, but yes, it is possible,” Silver said when asked about a regular season game in Paris. “It is something we are looking very closely at, and that is playing a regular-season game in Paris for next season….
“France has historically been a terrific market for the NBA. As you know, we have several players from France as well. I know when we’ve played many exhibition games in Paris over the years — I remember being there with Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls and the tremendous excitement around that team. It will continue, I think, to be an important market.
We took a number of years off because, of course, your arena was being renovated and upgraded. I haven’t yet been to what used to be Bercy Arena, but I hear it’s fantastic. So we’re looking forward to coming back to Paris.”
It sounds like a done deal.
The game likely would feature the Charlotte Hornets, with Tony Parker — the greatest NBA player out of France ever — and another team featuring French players. Might they play Rudy Gobert and the Jazz? Evan Fournier and the Magic? Or the league could send a team loaded with global stars (Warriors, Lakers, etc.). The NBA has options.
Whichever teams make the trip, it sounds like the NBA is coming back to the City of Lights.