Forget Paris? Billy Crystal might soon get a chance to attend an NBA regular season game in the City of Light.
The NBA won’t put a team in Europe anytime soon, but the league is intent on adding new European cities to its rotation for hosting regular season games. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated that Paris could be one of the future host cities, which would greatly help expand the Association’s popularity in Europe.
On Thursday, the Toronto Raptors defeated the Orlando Magic in London, marking the sixth regular season game played in the United Kingdom. Over 20 regular season games in the history of the NBA have been played outside the United States: 12 have been played in Japan, while three have been played in Mexico all-time.
Prior to Thursday’s Raptors-Magic game, Silver said that he was involved in a meeting with executives from AEG, who brought up the idea of hosting a game in Paris. AEG, or Anschutz Entertainment Group, is a leading sports and entertainment presenter which owns and operates Staples Center in Los Angeles, which the L.A. Lakers and Clippers both call home. AEG also owns, controls, or is afilliated with well-known buildings such as Oracle Arena, Target Center, American Airlines Arena, BBVA Compass Stadium, the MasterCard Center in Beijing, and the Allphones Arena in Syndey, Australia. Anschutz Entertainment Group owns the O2 Arena in London, and the AccorHotels Arena in Paris.
Silver said that the idea of bringing the NBA’s regular season to Paris is “something that we will look at closely.” He offered the view that France is “a fantastic basketball market.” Silver added that the NBA doesn’t currently have any plans on the subject of expanding the league and having a team (or teams) in Europe or beyond. However, Silver was fond of the idea of having an All-Star game take place across the pond, but didn’t hint when that might occur.
Is it a good idea to have France’s capital city host future NBA contests? Yes. The NBA should make games in Europe and Asia more regular. The more those cities are exposed to high-level basketball, the more the sport’s popularity will flourish. There’s no reason why people all over the world shouldn’t be able to watch the best basketball players in the world play live in their countries.
We’ve seen the explosion of the international game over the past few decades, and how it has enhanced the NBA’s product. Steve Nash from Canada, Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac from the former Yugoslavia, Yao Ming from China, Dikembe Mutombo from the Congo, and so many more come to mind. Still-active stars or notables born outside the United States include Dirk Nowitzki from Germany; Andrew Wiggins from Canada; Manu Ginobili from Argentina; Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, and Boris Diaw from France; and Al Horford from the Domincan Republic. All of these players defied the odds of coming from a different country to the United States, but if we bring the NBA to more countries worldwide, that will show kids that even though they’re not from the United States, they can make it if they work hard enough.
These great players listed above should be able to play regular season NBA games back home. They should get more opportunities to show aspiring basketball players in their own countries that they can accomplish their dreams as well.
This point is particularly relevant in France, which has become a European power thanks to Parker, Diaw, and other players who have graced NBA rosters. France won the 2013 EuroBasket tournament, the first gold medal at the event in the nation’s history. With a silver medal in 2011 and a bronze last year, France is enjoying its most fruitful period in international basketball since the late 1940s, when Les Bleus won silver at the 1948 London Olympics and at the 1949 EuroBasket.
Forget Paris? Not if the NBA has anything to say about it. The global reach of professional basketball continues to expand.