NBA Commissioner David Stern is willing to join British basketball’s battle to win back financial support in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics.
One of the most powerful figures in American sport, Stern has been instrumental in expanding both basketball and his league internationally during his long tenure and was central to opening the doors to professionals to play in the Games.
Speaking in London ahead of the game between the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons, Stern lent his backing to the planned appeal against UK Sport’s move to strip basketball of its Lottery funding. And he claims that the agency is ignoring its potential to reach out beyond the demographics of many traditional sports.
“I believe in the aspects of our game that we talk about because other governments talk about it,” he said. “They talk about exercise, health, fitness, discipline, teamwork as great attributes, especially in a world that’s dealing with obesity and diabetes.
“And they also talk about the fact that our game is welcoming, inclusive, progressive and very diverse, and if I were an enterprise deciding where to invest, I would think that basketball, especially in a country that originally focused prior to the Olympics on the fact that basketball was a sport being played in the neighbourhoods and especially for a country that’s been bemoaning the fact that it’s shut down playing fields and gymnasiums and they wanted to get kids out to be more active, the decision confounds me.”
Stern has had long-held ambitions to expand his league into Europe, despite the growth of the indigenous Euroleague over the past decade. With his retirement looming next year, such ambitions will fall to his current deputy and designated successor, Adam Silver, who believes more modern arenas will need to be built for that dream to become reality.
And then, he added: “What has to follow is television. We’re seeing that now with a new deal with Sky Sports that we’re very excited about. The potential is there. It’s a complex issue, as to whether the NBA should be expanding or if we should relocate franchises. Ultimately how much fan support there is. It’s a long horizon in 20 years. The international opportunity is a huge one for the NBA.“
Silver confirmed Manchester will host a pre-season game next October although no decision has yet been taken on whether London will again stage a regular season contest in 2014.
“I guess what I would say is as far as it goes, we’re planning to do more friendlies next season than we’ve ever done,” Stern said.
“We just haven’t decided exactly where they should be. And I think as we spend the summer after those friendlies, we’ll see what the regular season quotient is.”
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