Posts Tagged ‘Solomon Alabi’

Nets, Raptors Truly Going Global

LONDON – New Jersey’s team? Sure.

But the Nets fancy themselves as so much more these days. They’re quickly becoming the world’s team in the NBA, having played preseason games in China this season, after conducting a basketball clinic in Russia, home of their billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Now they’re just hours away from making history as part of the first NBA regular season games to be played on soil outside of North America, tonight and Saturday here at London’s O2 Arena.

They’ve seen the Kremlin, the Great Wall and now Buckingham Palace all before St. Patrick’s Day, cementing the Nets as true citizens of the world.

“Hey, we’re a global team,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “And I don’t think it’s the last time [you’ll see us do this]. But Prokhorov has added that dynamic to our franchise. It was great to go to Russia and spend some time with him. It was great to go to China and play two preseason games and give back to that community. And now here we are in London, pretty much with the same game plan. This is where we are right now and there is really nothing to complain about. [NBA Commissioner] David Stern had this vision a long time ago and now to see it happening is great for our fans, especially for our fans abroad.”

Their counterparts staring back at them in this historical contest?

The Toronto Raptors, who truly embody the spirit of the league’s Basketball Without Borders mantra, boasting six players on their roster that hail from foreign lands. Raptors coach Jay Triano participated in BWB Africa last summer in Dakar, Senegal.

“I’m not sure you could have picked two better teams to represent the league when you look at it from that standpoint,” said Raptors’ big man Solomon Alabi. A native of Nigeria, Alabi is one of three Raptors to participate in the Basketball Without Borders program before joining the league as players. Andrea Bargnani (Italy) and Alexis Ajinca (France) are the others.

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Hang Time Without Borders

LONDON – The fleece jacket with the NBA.com logo was a dead giveaway.

Or maybe it was the red, white and blue skull-cap with “ATL” splashed across the forehead that tipped him off.

“You here for the big game?” the baby-faced kid said to me, not realizing I was lost and in need of someone, anyone here in this massive and historic city, to point me in the direction of my hotel.

“Yes sir, Nets and Raptors doing the deed twice this week at the 02 Arena,” I shot back. “You must be a big NBA fan to find me like this. I knew there were NBA fans over here.”

Look at that. Mere hours after crossing the Atlantic Ocean for the trip I like to call Hang Time Without Borders, my faith in the global reach of the game was justified by a kind stranger willing to show me the way to my hotel in Canary Wharf, in London’s business district.

Only he was no ordinary kid. He was a bell hop at the hotel and spotted my get up and knew instantly where I was headed. And the big game he spoke of had nothing to do with the Nets and Raptors. Chelsea and Manchester United had a game last night at Chelsea’s home stadium.

“This is a futbol country, or as you say in the states, soccer,” he said with a smile. “You have heard of Didier Drogba? Frankie Lampard? Those are my guys. I like basketball all right, but the biggest game around here is Chelsea against Man-U. And I’m a big Chelsea fan. I have to tell you, the NBA has some work to do over here. There just aren’t as many fans here as you are used to in the States.”

That’s why I’m here, my man. This is like the basketball crusades. A mission that the NBA began years ago with routine stops in Europe and one that will be realized here in the United Kingdom specifically in 2012, when the Olympics will be held here and the world’s greatest basketball stars from the NBA and around the globe will converge on this city like the plague.

(Sorry for the medieval reference, but you try reading up on the history of this place and not diving into character.)

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