Following the third staging of an annual exhibition game at The O2 Arena, the NBA has revealed that it could stage a competitive regular-season match in London from as early as next season.
The O2 Arena in Docklands hosted a pre-season match earlier this month between Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz and NBA chiefs want to use the venue again but this time for a competitive fixture.
‘We’re running out of runway a little bit but we still hope to do it,’ NBA commissioner David Stern insisted. ‘Who knows? We have not set the schedule yet for 2010 so we’ll see.’
The NBA has long stated its desire to stage a competitive game in the UK – following the path taken by its US sports franchise counterpart the NFL – and has been building an audience for the league through three consecutive pre-season exhibition games.
The game between the Bulls and the Jazz was won by the Bulls led by British player Luol Deng with a last-gasp winning basket to record a 102-101 victory. The Team GB star finished joint top scorer with 18 points in front of a crowd of 18,689.
Basketball now ranks as the second most popular international team sport behind football and the sport’s hierarchy are keen to widen its appeal ahead of the 2012 London Olympics.
Stern has called for the sport’s governing body FIBA to further boost the sport in the UK by granting the British, entry to the World Championships. ‘The run-up to 2012 is very exciting for the growth of basketball in Great Britain. Team GB qualified for the EuroBasket and we hope that, in its wisdom, FIBA sees fit to give it a wild card.’
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