NBA Europe Style

Posted by By at 6 March, at 15 : 38 PM Print

On October 28, 2007 the New York Giants defeated the Miami Dolphins 13-10 in the first regular season NFL game played in Europe. Yesterday, the New Jersey Nets beat the Toronto Raptors 116-103 in the NBA’s first regular season game in Europe at the O2 Arena in London, England. For a league that David Stern has been working to brand as a “global league” it’s a bit surprising to me that almost three and a half years after the NFL went Europe the NBA decided to do so.

The attendance for yesterday’s game was 18,689, which was just ahead of the average home attendance this season for the Warriors (18,651) and the Celtics (18,629). Since British fans aren’t as familiar with basketball rules the public address announcer tab often had to explain to the arena why certain situations were taking place, like a player that’s fouled in the act of shooting gets two free throws. I can only imagine what that must have been like for the American journalists, and coaches & players on both teams to hear over the loud speakers, probably like playing a summer camp league game again.

By all accounts the fans seemed to enjoy the game and Andrea Bargnani was quoted as saying that he “felt the excitement”.  There were a few questions as to whether or not the long trip and fatigue would play a part and lessen the performance of both teams, but that didn’t appear to be the case, as the quality of play didn’t seem to suffer much, if at all.

I’m going to have admit that the NBA lucked out with today’s triple overtime thriller that might have been the best game of the year so far when you consider that:

1.The two teams now have a combined record of 36-89.

2. Had Deron Williams not been traded to the Nets there wouldn’t be a real household name on either team.

3. The main object of the two games was to market the NBA brand on the European stage.

At the end of regulation as well as each overtime period you would be hard pressed to find a person sitting in their seat as the final plays unfolded. Score one for David Stern. And more importantly, score one for the Raptors and the Nets who showed London that two non-elite teams can provide just as much excitement, if not more, than the best teams in the league. I’d love to say that David Stern knew exactly what he was doing when he decided on this matchup, but I’m not quite ready to give him that much credit yet. Even he would have to admit this worked out perfectly. If this would have been the first game, the expectations for the second would have been so high that the second game would almost certainly fall short. But with this as the finale, the taste it left in the mouth of everyone who watched could be nothing but positive.

I’ll admit I was skeptical when I found out that the Raptors and Nets were the two teams chosen to play in London and represent the NBA. Neither team was full of stars. Neither were expected to be really good this year. Neither had name recognition that would appear to call for an instant sellout when the matchup was announced. But that’s why games aren’t played on paper, they’re played in O2 Arenas, well atleast these two were.

In the end, the NBA go exactly what it intended and that’s two regular season games played across the pond and more exposure for a game that may actually be more popular outside of the US than it is here as hard as that is to believe. Whether or not the timing of the games will be around the the same time of year or not is yet to be seen, but I would imagine this would be a trend going forward as the NFL International Series has been since 2005. Other than the game in 2005 that took place in Mexico, the other four NFL regular season overseas games have been in England. My recommendation for the NBA would be to rotate between different countries instead of playing the game in the same country each year. My vote for next year would be China to capitalize on the huge following the NBA brand has there. What would your suggestions be?

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