Although NBA commissioner Adam Silver may not have any current plans for a European franchise, he does envision the league continuing to grow on a global scale. After watching the Toronto Raptors defeat the Orlando Magic in the league’s sixth annual regular season game in London on January 14, Silver mentioned two other major European cities that may soon host NBA games – Paris and Barcelona.
He received a proposal from Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to play a regular season game in France’s capital. The sports and entertainment company owns several teams and stadiums, including London’s O2 Arena, the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the AccorHotels Arena in Paris.
“France has also been a fantastic basketball market – and Paris in particular,” he told a group of reporters, via Reuters. “I am sure it will be something we look at closely.”
Aside from Paris, Silver also mentioned Barcelona as a future destination for NBA games. Spain’s second most populated city hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics – the same Olympics that featured the U.S. men’s basketball team famously referred to as the “Dream Team.”
“I’m sure I can’t tell you exactly when, but we will be back to Barcelona. It’s a wonderful city. It’s a great basketball market. We have terrific fans in Spain. So we will definitely be back,” he said, via The Sporting News.
Silver, for the time being, rejected the idea of having a team based overseas.
“We are not actively taking steps to bring a franchise to Europe or expand into Europe. It is something we have looked at over the years. It just doesn’t feel like the time is right,” said Silver.
This year’s game at the O2 Arena sold out in less than one hour, marking it as the sixth consecutive sell out in London since 2011. The game is as international as it has ever been, with other regular season games taking place in Mexico City and Tokyo.
Expanding play to Paris and Barcelona would undoubtedly increase the popularity and excitement of the NBA worldwide. France and Spain have two of the strongest national teams on the planet, boasting 17 active players between the two countries.
French nationals include four-time champion and future Hall of Famer Tony Parker; two-time All-Star Joakim Noah; and former first-round draft picks Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gobert, among others. Flying less than two hours brings you to Barcelona, where both Pau and Marc Gasol – seven All-Star appearances between them – were born. Other Spanish natives include point guards Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio.
If – and when – Silver and the NBA do decide to continue to extend games outside of North America, fan bases should be expected to grow and the league as a whole would surely benefit from the expansion. But expanding to have teams outside of this continent? Not quite yet.
Follow Matthew Hochberg on Twitter @MatthewHochberg.