Enthusiasm for NBA in London, but isn’t soccer
by Vince Ellis, USA TODAY Sports
LONDON — With a light snow-rain mix falling from gray London skies, there was little activity outside the O2 Arena on Monday morning.
And aside from one sign featuring Pistons Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko and Knicks Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak, there weren’t any signs that the NBA was coming to the O2.
But the scene will change Thursday when a sell-out crowd will watch the Detroit Pistons play the New York Knicks in what will be the league’s 16th regular-season game in a foreign market.
The NBA is seeking to increase its global reach, with commissioner David Stern predicting this month multiple franchises in Europe within 20 years.
That would appear to be a tough goal, considering the global economy. But in traveling around London, I was able to discover some enthusiasm for the product.
And there is one Londoner who can’t wait.
Tim Evans, 52, a die-hard fan of all Detroit teams, plans to be there. Evans worked in Findlay, Ohio, during the 1980s and developed a love for Detroit and its sports teams. In the late ’90s, he built a vacation home in Bowling Green but grew tired of the long trips up I-75 for games, so he moved closer.
He describes himself as “semiretired,” and he travels back to the Detroit area several times a year to a vacation home. He is a season-ticket holder for the Wings, Lions, Tigers and U-M football.
“I’ve been to the Palace a few times and, although basketball is not my top sport, I’m aiming to be at the O2 on Thursday evening with my son supporting the D,” Evans wrote in an e-mail. “It’s in the blood!”
Evans’ excitement wasn’t surprising to Ben Morel, senior vice president for NBA Europe.
He said over the weekend that there is demand for the NBA overseas — citing how tickets were gone in four days … [For more on Some enthusiasm for NBA in London, but it isn't soccer, click here.]