With the NFL making more and more noise every day about putting a franchise in London, NBA commissioner Adam Silver made clear Thursday that expansion to Europe is not in his league’s plans.
Via the Sporting News:
“We are not actively taking steps to bring a franchise to Europe or to expand to Europe,” Silver said in a London press conference. “It’s something that we’ve looked at over the years. It just doesn’t feel like the time is ripe right now, especially given what’s going on with the Euroleague and FIBA.
“We think the best place for the NBA right now is to showcase an NBA game here in London, to play our preseason games here, and to work on a grassroots level to develop the game. But at the current time, we are not looking at franchises in Europe.”
The Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors played in front of a sold-out crowd in London on Thursday, marking the fifth straight year the league has staged at least one game in the city. The NBA has also held regular-season games in Mexico City and Tokyo.
While basketball is certainly not as popular in the United Kingdom as on the American side of the Atlantic, England has produced a number of NBA players, most notably Miami Heat forward Luol Deng. Silver did not rule out future expansion to Europe, saying the league will continue to promote the sport there at the grassroots level and through these games.
Meanwhile, momentum continues to build toward an NFL team launching in or relocating to London. The NFL has played at least one game in the United Kingdom every season since 2007, including three per year since 2013. Forbes recently called London the “odds-on favorite” to score the next NFL team to relocate.
Whether or not the NFL (or the NBA) ends up planting a team overseas any time soon, it seems international expansion will remain a subject of conversation across all American sports going forward. London will likely be floated as a potential destination for every North American franchise with attendance problems from now until the city it gets a team or two.
But though twenty years from now every U.S. league might have a “European division,” the NBA appears content to remain on this continent for a while.