Get Used to the Idea of NBA Teams in Europe

Ian Whittell, writing in the London-based Guardian:

'There were no NBA-quality arenas in Europe until a couple of years ago. None,' says Tim Leiweke, president of AEG, the company that owns the O2 in London's Docklands. 'You're going to see a huge arena spurt in Europe. I predict that you are going to see 12 new, great arenas built in world-class cities all over Europe.'

To paraphrase the marketing slogan from a popular movie about another quintessentially American sport, baseball's Field of Dreams - 'If you build it, they will come.'

The question, as the NBA wrestle with the impact of the current global economic crisis, is will they come and, if so, when and where? 'In the next two years, one of the leagues is going to put a team on different soil and it is going to be revolutionary... It's going to happen,' Leiweke exclusively told Observer Sport last week, clearly believing that it will happen sooner rather than later.

'If the US economy is in the tank, then the league will be looking more globally than ever for economic opportunity, to diversify their risk,' said one NBA team executive. 'They may have to cut back in certain areas, but they won't cut back on global initiatives.'

'This is not a new objective,' said Stern when asked about the subject earlier this year. 'What we have always said was if there was an appropriate arena structure, if there was appropriate fan affinity and there was a pricing structure necessary for a team to compete in the NBA, it would seem to be an opportunity for us to grow.

'The idea is not about having one team or even two teams. There would have to be a critical mass and that is something we continue to watch. We are watching various markets on a global scale in a very serious way, more seriously than we ever have before. It is a continuing viability study.'

And the viability of European expansion is more plausible than ever. 'It's going to happen,' says Leiweke. 'We are learning that we are a global economy, global communications platform, we are a global entertainment platform and global sports is going to follow that.'