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Monday, January 14th, 2013 at 11:03 am  |  14 responses

London Calling

Knicks head across the pond hoping to give UK fans something to cheer after tough 2012.

by Ben Taylor / @benitaylor

Around this time last year, I wrote a piece about the idea of taking the NBA All-Star Game to international cities—with London in mind as a prime host, pre-Olympic optimism and excitement coursing through my hoops-starved veins.

Well, it is five months since the Olympics finished. The widely held positivity about the Games—particularly among the UK basketball community around the arrival of LeBron, Kobe, and the U.S. team changing basketball’s status in the UK—has melted away. The Olympics were great, as were Coach K’s team, but the game hasn’t changed at all. For some, things have gotten worse. nba london

Having the world’s best on its doorstep didn’t seem to capture the British public’s attention, certainly not to the extent of other Olympic sports—particularly those in which Great Britain performed well. Basketball was, at best, an afterthought.

In the months that followed, England Basketball and British Basketball, the organizations responsible for running and promoting the game here, had their public funding cut due to poor participation statistics and lack of medal prospects, impacting basketball at both the grassroots and elite levels.

And for the fans, disagreement between the NBA and ESPN meant starting the new season without any TV coverage of the league.

But while 2012 ended on a sour note, 2013 has started positively.

The news of the funding cut united the UK hoops community and spurred it into action—fronted, as always, by Hoopsfix founder Sam Neter. A petition to have the UK government reconsider British Basketball’s funding cut has been started—if you have a spare minute, you can add your name to it here.

In the last few weeks, the NBA’s London office announced a new and vastly improved TV deal, with British broadcaster Sky, one of the driving forces behind the NFL’s popularity in the UK, signing up to show live games every Sunday night, in addition to highlights, and full coverage of the NBA Playoffs and Finals.

And, to top it all off, this week sees the arrival of the Knicks and the Pistons in the UK, who will play at a sold-out O2 Arena in London on Thursday night. It’ll be the third NBA regular season game to take place in London, following 2011’s double header between a Nets team featuring the newly-signed Deron Williams, and the Toronto Raptors.

Needless to say, the visit of the Knicks—one of the most popular teams across the pond—has even the fair-weather fans of the game excited. Tickets, which originally sold out in a matter of days, are in high demand, with the cheapest changing hands for upwards of $300. Expect the O2 arena to be packed with blue and orange for what is, technically, a Detroit home game.

For the first time in the UK, those unable to get their hands on tickets will be able to watch the game at home in 3D, another result of the new Sky TV deal.

Rasheed Wallace, coming out of your TV screen in glorious 3D. If that isn’t a moment to be celebrated, I don’t know what is.

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  • Mike Kelly

    There are a lot of basketball fans in the UK who have been working hard for many years to increase the profile of the game over basketball over here in the UK, so if anyone reading could take a couple of minutes to sign the petition it would be greatly appreciated by us all.

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43456/

  • Ben

    #Buzzing already lol

  • roscoe

    UK hoops’ arena crowds might be the quietest in the history of the game.

    pass the tea charles.

  • Ben

    Well it’s not a home game.

  • LakeShow

    If there were basketball hoops in London it would help with their overall lack of basketball talent…
    Never been to a place with such a lack of basketball equipment over all.. Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Canada, France… All of em had plenty of hoops.
    In London there are few to be found.

  • roscoe

    totally agree… never saw a hoop in London.

  • roscoe

    they do serve Ps and Qs though

  • LakeShow

    Right, It’s strange.
    I brought my damn pig skin with me on the plane… No reason for it.
    You didn’t happen to see the things they we’re trying to pass as basketball hoops right? They had no back board… I was thinking “Is this a 3rd world country or something” lol?

  • http://twitter.com/12royalblue Ben Hedley-Smith

    As someone who lives outside of London you barely see any hoops, and the ones that are there aren’t always regulation (the nearest to me is 9ft high). There needs to be more exposure to the game, and people here need to see how much better it is than football (soccer), its a faster paced game that is so much more exciting. If the NBA visited more often, maybe holding camps in the summer or something then that would increase the opportunity for GB basketball

  • LakeShow

    Precisely.
    Good incite.

  • roscoe

    lol… so true… i didn’t see one, but i bought a USA iverson jersey for 5 pounds which tells me they don’t care for hoops when a beckham was around 25 pounds…

    this was a few years b4 the 12′ Olympics. Stoked to hear you took your ball.

    good stuff LakeShow…

  • roscoe

    get your local city to put a hoop up… write the nba front office & watch the magic happen Ben… it’s all about grass roots.

    that would be horrible to not be able to get a p/up.

  • LakeShow

    I bought hella music, cause the exchange rate was good then and the store I was at was cheap. Picked up A few Biggie albums for about 3 pounds (6 bucks) each. This was like 2005-06 so things were a little different then.
    Right backatchu man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrea-Cavalli/757338131 Andrea Cavalli

    I would’ve liked to visit from Italy and attend the London game. I thought tickets were going to be available for awhile but I was surprised to see they were basically gone only few days after they were put on sale.

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