Stern abandoning idea of European Division

The NBA will not be expanding to Europe anytime soon … if ever.

After years and years of promoting and researching the idea, commissioner David Stern has come to the conclusion that it would be unrealistic to expand with a European Division that would have placed teams in London, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

The reasons:

_ Not enough NBA-style arenas.

_ Too much financial uncertainty related to the Euro.

_ Not enough fan support … especially among customers willing to pay the prices that Americans pay to attend games.

“It’s safe to say that there aren’t enough buildings, there aren’t adequate TV arrangements, we don’t have owners, and I’m not sure we could charge the prices that would be necessary. I don’t think our fans are that avid yet,” Stern told reporters in Milan, Italy, according to a report by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

“I don’t think having a single team in Europe is practical,” Stern said before watching the Celtics take on Emporio Armani Milano. “I never have. What I’ve said is if we’re going to have an NBA presence here in terms of the league, it should be five teams.”

European fans are accustomed to paying top dollar Euro for soccer matches, but basketball prices are at a much lower level. According to colleague and friend Antonis Kalkavouras of MEGA-TV in Athens, the prices of  tickets in Olympiacos Arena (home of the defending Euroleague champions) range from 10 Euros (about $13) to 110 Euros ($142) for courtside seats. About 60 percent of the tickets cost 20 Euros, and 20 percent of the tickets cost just 10 Euros.


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  2. Sergio says

    Don’t agree on all points with D. Stern either.

    I’m a bit biased as I love the NBA and would be one of the few willing to constantly pay higher prices to watch the highest level of competitive basketball played in my “home continent”.

    Here are my counter-arguments to the three points listed in the article:

    – Not enough NBA-style arenas.

    Fine. So both the O2 in London and Berlin are the only ones 100% ready right now. Not sure about the one in Paris, but I think it’s close enough. My argument is that you don’t need to go with a complete division of 5 teams. One team to start with will be less risky and if done correctly will bring in money for the association. How about creating a team for London to start with? We know that Stern has the power to push/sell out a team from any city (ask any Sonics’ fan in Seattle). For agument’s sake, let’s say he does that with New Orleans or Sacramento. Sell or “move” one of them to London. Time difference to the East coast is 5 hours. West coast teams like LAL or GSW have a 3 hour difference to the east coast… so not too radical of an adjustment once you’re on an East-coast trip.

    -Too much financial uncertainty related to the Euro.

    Cause the dollar has remained strong and solid through the decades? Well, in London it’s the british pound… which is always stronger and more stable. Problem solved.

    – Not enough fan support … especially among customers willing to pay the prices that Americans pay to attend games.

    This is the interesting one. I’ve lived in the US 4 years and have gone to NBA games. Americans will admit that at least half of the people in the arenas are not really full-heartedly “supporting” the home team with few exceptions.
    But rather are there for:
    A. Entertainment. Pro sports in the US compete for ticket sales with other forms of entertainment such as going to the movies or a musical…or even a night out for drinks and dinner. There’s a reason for huge jumbo-trons, hot dogs, merchandise, cheerleaders and business boxes.
    B. Their employer or friend/family happens to have some tickets left so they are causually there.
    C. Celebrity spotting and “it” croud. Alot of NBA players are real live celebrities in the US, so some people will go just to see high profile teams like the Lakers, Knicks or Heat to get a glimpse of them. Add to that the fact that in the major markets, you have hollywood and music industry celebreties attending the games regularly.
    In a city like London, which can easily be compared to New York within a European context.. you will have crowds who match all of the above. A cosmopolitan capital with people of all backgrounds and sproting interests (i.e. soldout NBA preseason games and the olympics) with a constant high stream of tourists and visitors. It’s a city where locals and visitors happily pay 100 dollars to see a musical or for an evening “out in town”. I attended the Raptors-Nets game two seasons ago, which was a double-header that was soldout. Happily payed 112 pounds (200 dollars) for decent seats. Obviously the average pricing per game would go down once you have 40+ home games.So, I doubt they will struggle selling tickets. In the worst case, lower attendance games with middle-tier teams will be compensated by the higher profile ones. No different to what arenas like Milwaukee, Atlanta or Charlotte would do… just to name a few. Those clubs’ existence hasn’t been questioned as much.
    Also, London is connected perfectly to countries with larger basketball fanbases… such as Spain, Italy, Greece or France. 4 airports and the Eurostar train bring in millions of visitors for relatively low faires every year. Combine that with the over-average earners in London who will attend games and you got yourself a viable base of attendees for a full NBA season.

    Call me crazy, but I think I have some valid points and with the correct marketing we could have the NBA franchise that I can call a “home team”.

  3. Andrea says

    As someone who lives in Europe I don’t agree with one of the things Stern mentioned. At one point he talked how we prefer watching a euro team going against an NBA team as opposed to watching 2 NBA teams playing one another. I don’t really think so. Fans here are more eager to watch NBA teams playing one another. When the Celtics came here in Milan the other week most of the fans in the arena – and I know this for a fact since I was at the game- were rooting for them and were even wearing Celtics gear. There was not much support for the local team (which averages about 3,000 fans per game in the very same arena the game was played during the season; for this game there were about 11,000 fans- 100% capacity- and tickets sold out within few hours from being put on sale last June; the local team was not even able to fill the arena to capacity even during the Italian League Finals so go figure). Another example is when the Celtics and Raptors came in Rome back in 2007. There was so much more excitement for the Celtics-Raptors game than there was for the Raptors-Roma game the following day. Tickets for the game involving the two NBA teams, again, sold out on the same day while the game involving the Italian team was harder to sell. Aside the fans of the local teams, most fans- at least here in Italy- prefer watching two NBA teams playing each other and, frankly, it’s not even close. I even overheard some fans at the game in Milan saying that the event would’ve been so much better had another NBA team played the Celtics as opposed to Milano.

    As far as expanding here, yeah I don’t see it practical myself. Outside London and Berlin arenas are not even close to be NBA-ready and economy in most of Europe has gone down the crapper. There are even some rumblings some countries, Italy included, could abandon the euro altogether and get back to the old currency. So tickets prices would’ve to go down considerably.

    • Cos says

      man, i dont know which planet you come from, but if Olympiacos or Panathinaikos played in the NBA you would have 20,000 people per game…
      If Euro teams could participate in the draft and be legitimate league teams Euro basketball would manage to handle two teams per city unlike the US. Sorry mate, you just live in a small city. Olympiacos and Panathinaikos used to accomodate +10,000 fans in the Euroleague whilst their soccer teams did 50,000+. The problem with the Euro-NBA is that there are TOO MANY teams that could participate and leaving one out would simply destroy both Euro NBA and the Euroleague. The Euroleague needs at least 10 teams in the NBA and that is the problem. Too ignorant too pessimistic my friend


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