The NBA has become the next major American sporting organization to host regular season games in Europe. According to commissioner David Stern, the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets will be the two team representing the rest of the NBA in London, England next season. NBA betting trends are likely to favor the team going into the game with the most wins.
The two teams are expected to meet in the O2 Arena March 4 and 5 for the first non-exhibition games held in Europe. There wasn’t any word from the commissioner on whether or not the NBA has made an annual commitment to play games in England.
“We’ll need to assess how we do in March,” Stern said. “It would not surprise me if this becomes an annual event. But I don’t want to make a commitment on it.”
Stern’s plan for the NBA always involved over-seas expansion. The NBA’s product is highly promoted in several countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. The commissioner stressed the importance of playing regular season games in London before the city hosts the 2012 Olympics, where the USA basketball team will surely be favored by NBA odds to win the gold medal.
Prior to the season opener, the LA Lakers, New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves will all play games as a part of the NBA’s Europe Live Tour. It will be the fifth season of the tour, and each team is scheduled to play two games. The Lakers are scheduled to play the Timberwolves on October 4th in the O2 Arena before traveling to Barcelona, Spain for a game with the local team.
The NBA is following the trend of the NFL that started playing regular season games in London in 2007. The New York Giants defeated the Miami Dolphins 13-10 that season in Wembley Stadium. The NFL didn’t have a problem selling tickets to the event, as 40,000 were sold in the first 90 minutes. This season’s NFL contest will feature the San Francisco 49ers against the Denver Broncos.
The NFL tried to fund a league in Europe from 1995-2007 called NFL Europe. The league disbanded after it was no longer profitable. Stern was asked at the announcement if he considered setting up franchises in Europe.
“I think one franchise doesn’t work. It needs to be multiple franchise,” Stern said. “We need buildings … we need owners … we need a better economy. It’s certainly something that I and my successors will be considering.”
Pre-season NBA betting lines have set the Miami Heat, a team not participating in Europe next season, as the favorite to win the NBA championship.