IN THE end, the NBA’s city break to London was scripted so perfectly it could have been sports entertainment. The New York Knicks beat the Detroit Pistons 102-87. Its star player, Carmelo Anthony, top-scored with 26 points and the sellout crowd of 18,689 at the O2 Arena cheered and whooped all night long.
No wonder NBA commissioner David Stern admitted: ”For my money we can’t come back here enough.”
Stern is likely to get his wish. He is the boss, after all. According to sources, the NBA is considering a pre-season game in Manchester at the MEN Arena later this year and another regular-season game in London next season.
Thursday night’s game was as much a spectacle as a contest; a giant slab of American sport transplanted into south-east London for one night only. That was just as well, for the Knicks jumped to a 13-2 lead and never relinquished it – although the gap briefly closed to four points midway through the third quarter before the Knicks stretched away.
Unsurprisingly, it was Anthony who ran the show. There were shouts of ”MVP MVP” whenever he sunk a basket.
It was pounding, exhilarating and relentlessly corporate. During timeouts fans competed to win a pair of shoes or participated in a three-point contest for the chance to attend the All-Star Game in Houston. When the commercials stopped, Ray Castoldi, the Knicks’ In-Arena organist for more than 20 years, added a touch of class with old school tunes.
There were echoes of the past too in the posters outside the O2, which gave a history lesson to fans: from Mr Basketball George Mikan, who pioneered the professional era, to familiar names of a more recent vintage: Magic. Larry. Jordan. The crowd didn’t need much educating. John Starks and Bill Laimbeer, former NBA legends, got bigger cheers than Spike Lee and Thierry Henry. There is likely to be more of this.
As Stern pointed out: ”We increasingly have owners who are focused on global business opportunities and, as the game of basketball grows, there will be more opportunities in Europe.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.