NBA sets eyes on Paris for future overseas play

Basketball fans in the UK were treated to a visit from the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards at the O2 arena a week ago – but it may have been the country’s last taste of live NBA hoops for some time.

During a press conference prior to the 2019 edition of the NBA Global Games in London Thursday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver hinted that the league’s annual overseas game might move away from the UK capital, suggesting Paris as the likely next location possibly as soon next season.

“It is possible,” Silver said. “It’s something we’re looking at very closely, playing a game in Paris next season.”

The UK and its rampant fanbase have played host to the NBA annually since 2013 and eight times in the past nine years overall dating back to an inaugural pair of games between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors in 2011. Each of the past nine NBA contests in London have sold out, including this year when all tickets were sold just 11 minutes after posting, and Britain remains among the top foreign countries in terms of NBA League Pass subscriptions each year.

Yet France has a rabid NBA fanbase of its own, and it appears Silver and his league are ready to capitalise on it. With plenty of big names in the sport both past and present – Rudy Gobert, Boris Diaw, Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum, among others – hailing from France, there are plenty of marketable faces for the NBA to utilize, making Paris a logical next step abroad.

“France has historically been a terrific market for the NBA,” the 56-year-old commissioner said. “As you know, we have several players from France as well. I know when we’ve played many exhibition games in Paris over the years – I remember being there with Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls and the tremendous excitement around that team. It will continue, I think, to be an important market.”

Silver’s proposed move from London to Paris comes as other American sports leagues deepen their ties in the UK.

The NFL – which has held regular season matchups in England since 2007 – is set to play four games in London next autumn and possesses a 10-year contract to play two games annually at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium once it is opened. Major League Baseball, meanwhile, will make its first splash into Europe this summer when the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees venture across the pond for a two-game series on June 29 and 30. That’ll be hosted at the iconic London Stadium – the venue for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Silver was sure to avoid dismissing London as a location for future regular season games, but remained adamant that multiple contests in Europe within the same season, say in both London and Paris, was not a likely possibility.

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