Incoming boss Silver says league to keep coming back to London

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 16, 2014 7:26 PM

By Michael Szabo

LONDON (Reuters) - The Brooklyn Nets topped the Atlanta Hawks 127-110 on Thursday in the NBA's annual London match, a fixture which incoming NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says will remain on the league's calendar.

The sport's popularity has picked up since the British capital hosted the 2012 Olympic Games, and Silver said he was keen to continue a "fantastic experience".

"We have plans in place to continue playing regular season games in London," he told reporters before the sold-out game at London's O2 Arena.

"We're looking at other opportunities, maybe to play more games or possibly do a tournament at some point, but right now we're going to continue on the same course."

Silver, the NBA's deputy commissioner, will take over from current commissioner David Stern when he steps down on February 1, 30 years to the day since he started running the league.

Stern has built the NBA into a global brand, and Silver said he wanted to carry on that legacy and possibly expand in Europe.

"I think most likely if we were to come to Europe, it would be with a division rather than a single team for ease of logistics, and it's something we're going to continue to look at," Silver said.

NBA teams have played 13 games in the UK since 1993, all sell-outs, and in more than 100 in Europe since 1978.

In the past 10 years, the league has branched out to organize games in other basketball-hungry Mediterranean countries, but those efforts have been noticeably reined in since 2012 amid tough economic times for the euro zone.

Stern said: "The economy is booming comparatively in the UK and we're having sell-outs at good prices. I'm not sure that's possible at the current time in Greece. It's unlikely in Spain and ... Italy as well."

He added that a lack of large, modern venues in those countries that compare to London's 14-year old, 20,000-seat capacity O2 Arena was also a factor.

"The last time we played in Italy it was in (Milan's Mediolanum) Forum, and it think the Forum might almost be as old as I am, and it looks it," Stern said.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)