NBA commissioner Adam Silver has revealed that the North American basketball league is keen to stage more games in Europe, although scheduling issues are preventing further expansion.
Silver was speaking ahead of yesterday’s (Thursday’s) regular-season game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers at London’s O2 Arena, which has staged NBA fixtures since 2011.
The venue currently hosts one game each January and while Silver said that there is an appetite to stage more, logistical issues are proving to be an obstacle.
The NFL American football league hosts multiple games in London each year and yesterday revealed the three fixtures planned for 2018, with Wembley to host two games and the new home of Premier League football team Tottenham Hotspur to stage another.
“We’re considering bringing additional games to Europe,” he said, according to the Associated Press news agency. “It’s just the logistical challenges for us are so much greater (than for the NFL). The demand is there and the interest is there. It’s really more a question of our schedule and whether we can make it work.”
To accommodate fitting last night's London game into their schedules, both the Celtics and the 76ers have had to stockpile games at other stages in their seasons, and Silver said that further overseas events would only add to fixture congestion.
“When you build some buffer around this game in the middle of the season, it requires compressing the schedule in other parts of the season. And the more teams we bring, the more scheduling difficulties we have,” Silver said.
“This game, as you all know, sold out in less than an hour, and the reason it even took 52 minutes was the limitation of technology in terms of how fast people could enter their credit cards and buy the tickets. We could easily sell out two games, three games, four games.”
Silver added that Paris in France and Berlin in Germany could be potential destinations for future overseas games, but he did not specify when such fixtures might be held.
In addition, Silver said that London would be considered as a future host of the NBA’s All-Star Game. “It’s something we’d love to do, to play our All-Star Game in London or Europe,” he told the Evening Standard newspaper.
“We have talked about it for years. Logistically it’s very difficult because of the length of break we’d have to take around the game but in terms of doing things on a one-off basis it’s much more possible than bringing a franchise over here.
“The payoff in terms of fan interest is arguably that much greater even than playing a single game here.”
The most recent edition of the All-Star Game was held last year at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. The earliest London could host the event would be 2022, with hosting rights for the next four editions of the game having already been assigned.
The event will head to Staples Center (Los Angeles) in 2018, Spectrum Center (Charlotte) in 2019, United Center (Chicago) in 2020 and Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis) in 2021.