Let’s Do This Again!

LONDON – You know you’re a hit when the coach whose team lost back-to-back regular season games walks out of the building touting how much his team learned from their experience.

What the Nets and Raptors did Saturday night, though, goes above and beyond what anyone expected, even from a celebrated guest like the NBA. Two teams with a combined 35 wins before the night started, played the craziest (in a good way) and best regular season game of this NBA season.

That they did on the back-end of a historic, back-t-back set — the first regular season games played on European soil — only made it that much sweeter for the sellout crowd that piled into the splendid 02 Arena on this magnificent cities’ eastern edge. And yes, that would be the same crowd that rose to its feet in unison and gave both teams a standing ovation before the final 12.6 seconds of the third and final overtime was played.

“Hats off to the NBA … because I think it’s a huge success,” exhausted Nets coach Avery Johnson said of the European experiment. “This is one of the best wins I’ve been a part of … If you look at this crowd, the last two nights, I didn’t see an empty seat in the building. They were into the game and we provided them to two thrilling nights of basketball.”

Indeed!

And fans from all over the continent found their way here for the weekend. I know this because I had the pleasure of shaking hands and taking pictures with many of them before, during and after both games. They came from all over. Sweden, Germany, Holland, France, Spain, Italy and Russia, just to name a few, were all represented. There were men, women and children. Fans of the teams specifically but mostly fans of the NBA game. They wanted to be a part of the experience.

Still, none of us expected to see the triple overtime thriller we all witnessed on this night.

“Hopefully, every time we come through London we’re the home team here,” said Nets power forward Kris Humphries, who showed off with 38 points and 35 rebounds in two games, much to the delight of the crowd. “It feels good. It’s been great here, a great experience. Thanks to all the people that made this happen.”

Johnson’s counterpart, Toronto’s Jay Triano, didn’t spend his time complaining about the things his team did or did not do properly. (There’s plenty of time on Sunday’s flight to watch the film and haggle over those things.) Instead, he talked about how nice it was to see his young players grow up on this most global of stages. He talked about all the lessons they’ll take from their time here, of the unique opportunities this break in the normal NBA travel routine  provided his staff to lock in on the team’s needs, and the fact that you don’t get many chances in life to make history.

“This was a great game for our young guys to play in,” Triano said. “Anytime we can put our young players in situations where there is a chance to win a game on the last possession … this is the kind of growth we’re looking for for our young players. “Anytime you play, and the fact that we came over here, is good for our guys. It helps with their mental focus on the game, and we thoroughly enjoyed our trip.”

We all did.

I say we do it all over again next year.

Same teams, same time and everything.

I’ll beg the bosses to clear my schedule now.

In fact, I’ll make sure they speak with the man, Nets owner  Mikhail Prokhorov, largely responsible for all that transpired here this weekend.

“I share the NBA vision that globalization is the next step for the growth of the league,” Prokhorov said on a panel discussion before Friday’s game. “So these games in London, it’s a great testimony to show how the sport is going global. We have a U.S. team with a Russian owner, with a French, Dutch and Slovenian player facing the Canadian team with players from Brazil, Spain, Italy and some other countries, and the games are in London.”

Like I said, same teams, same time and everything.

Let’s do this again.

12 Comments

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  2. NAJ says:

    Can’t believe Avery Johnson said ‘I didn’t see an empty seat in the building’.

    I was there Saturday and there were hundreds of empty seats. Ticket touts no doubt ruining it for real fans.

    It was a great game though and we thouroughly enjoyed it (especially my friend who is a Nets fan).

  3. Ben says:

    Bring the NBA to Australia please! Our basketball league is a joke. No excitement.

  4. Dan says:

    I was there both nights, In my Petrovic throwback cheering on the Nets! Tried to make it as much as a home game for the Nets as possible but I was outnumbered heavily by Raptors fans! Great two nights.. Saturday night was an amazing game.. Thanks to everyone involved to making it happen.

  5. Potter says:

    It seems all but enevitable that this becomes a yearly standard. Also, imagine the Hornets moving to Vancouver and playing a regular season game in China? Unlikely, but that would be awesome! The NBA needs more in-season tournaments/special games. Soccer has all sorts of tournaments midseason to great effect, and the NHL has All-Star Weekend, Winter Classic and Heritage Classic played outside, as well as the biggest draw, the Olympics every 4 years.

    What about a midseason tournament featuring the bottom two teams in each NBA conference, and the best teams from Euroleague, Australia, Brazil and Russia?

  6. Andrea says:

    I went to both games, too. I came all the way from Italy and I was pleased to see there were several other Italians, too, at the games.

    So I’ve been to 3 NBA games so far (the 2 in London and the Knicks preseason game back in October in Milan, Italy, though their opponent was an Italian team, but let’s pretend it was an NBA game anyway lol) and I had a great team in all of those games.

    Looking forward to attend even more games in the future.

    Also, let’s hope the naysayers who complained about this event and wondered if the fans were even going to show up just shut up now rather than keep looking silly with their uninformed comments.

    Us European NBA fans want more!

  7. Daryl says:

    I was lucky enough to make it to both games and throughly enjoyed the NBA experience. As a British Raptor fan, i was naturally disappointed with the result but not the show that both teams put on for the fans at the O2. It gives me something to talk (and in some cases, boast) about to my friends and my Canadian father. If it is the same again next year, then definitely count me in!

  8. Enzo says:

    i had the most amazing time and felt so priveleged to have been there and to an actual NBA game!!
    It would be a huge shame if the NBA didnt come back next year and every year… The NFL does it, why not the NBA

    Thank you so much for coming!!

  9. ed says:

    awesome. i couldn’t make it, and i would have LOVED to!! I am about 100 miles from london… woulda brought my family and kids too…. next time!!!

    I’m sure there are also many many more nba fans that would want to make it to the next regular season game in london.

  10. Rick says:

    That was a great game today, Europe really got to see some amazing basketball. Also Sekou, this is random and off topic but what’s with that tiny smiley face in the top right hand side of the screen on your blogs?

  11. Kris says:

    Was a perfect game. I went to both games and had the best time, more than any nba fan could have hoped for. I hope they do manage to sort something else out again in the near future. Thanks for bringing the show over this side of the pond.