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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The NBA will make history tonight when the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets play the first-ever regular season game in Europe. The league has played exhibition games all over the world. But this’ll be the first game played globally that’ll count.
The BBC’s Alex Capstick reports the league has big plans for Europe.
ALEX CAPSTICK: The two NBA teams playing in London this weekend are already aware of the need to spread their brand globally. The Toronto Raptors have six international players on their roster, while the New Jersey Nets are owned by a famed Russian billionaire. Basketball is already the second most popular sport in some Europeans countries like Spain, Greece and Turkey.
Avery Johnson is the coach of the New Jersey Nets. He says some of his players have complained about the long journey, but Johnson says they’ll have to get used to it.
AVERY JOHNSON: We’ve gone to China already in a pre season, we’ve gone to Russia, so it’s a part of who we are, and it’s also a part of the ever changing culture of the NBA.
In fact, the NBA says its long term aim is to create a team in Europe. And European expansion would help the bottom line. The Nets and Raptors are both struggling to win games this season — so when they play each other back home, few fans attend. But both games in London are already sold out.
I’m the BBC’s Alex Capstick for Marketplace.
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