Paris to host NBA game 'for years to come': Silver

by Fran�ois BONTOUX
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, the reigning NBA MVP, will be the star attraction Friday's game in Paris

The NBA will hold a game in Paris for "many more years" to come, commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday, and the league would like to have a doubleheader in the French capital and London if ever its schedule allows.

On the eve of the first-ever regular season NBA game in Paris between Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks and the Charlotte Hornets, Silver said a commitment to return to France next year had been made but the details were still to be tied down for 2022.

"We will be playing again in Paris next January. We will be in Paris for many more years but I can't commit now that that will include the year after next. The only commitment we have is for next year," Silver told reporters.

"We haven't set the teams yet but we're in active discussions with a few teams. We are oversubscribed already in terms of team interest in coming."

Silver said the 82-game NBA season allowed little time for teams to travel to Europe but the league was examining its schedule to see where more games could be held outside the United States.

"There are only limited opportunities to play in Paris, for example, because of building in the time for travel and rest," he said.

"In years out, we're hoping we can create a schedule that can allow more international play."

NBA teams have played an annual regular season game in London for the past nine years but the league moved the game to Paris this year.

"France is a great basketball market, there is a long tradition of basketball here and there is a first-class federation that seemingly produces a disproportionate number of NBA players so the calibre of play is excellent," Silver said.

Tony Parker, the Frenchman who won four NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs, will receive a special award before tip-off Friday.

Silver insisted that the decision to transfer the game to Paris was "not a statement about the popularity in London or in England."

"We wanted to move the game around a little bit," he said.

"This is in essence a good problem to have. Whether we're at O2 in London or AccorHotels Arena (in Paris) we sell out virtually instantly.

"The question is, as interest in the league continues to grow internationally, are we able to build in windows within the schedule that regularly allow teams to travel and play overseas?"

Ralph Rivera, the NBA's Managing Director for Europe and the Middle East, said the idea of having back-to-back games in Paris and London was attractive to the league.

"The notion of a double-header is appealing. What it really comes down to is the logistics of it, the travel, the rest and the logistics of moving between two cities. It is something we look at.

"If we're able to get a bit more flex in the schedule then that becomes much more feasible."

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, the reigning NBA MVP, will be the star attraction Friday's game in Paris