NBA eyes European expansion

Updated / Sunday, 17 Feb 2008 12:47

NBA Commissioner David Stern

Plans for large new European arenas have National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern looking more intently than ever at expanding across the Atlantic Ocean by 2018.

Stern spoke on those subjects Saturday on the eve of the 57th NBA All-Star Game, also saying that NBA exhibition games are planned for later this year in Europe and China, although exactly when and  where has not been finalized.

Stern talked with optimism about the chances of adding five new teams in Europe within a decade, mainly because of new ‘NBA-ready’ arenas in London and Berlin and planned similar venues in Madrid and Rome.

‘We're watching various markets on a global scale in a very serious way, more serious than we ever have before,’ Stern said. ‘We are seeing good signs of arena development.’

Anschutz Entertainment Group, a major US arena developer, built the Berlin arena set to open in October and will manage the Beijing Olympic arena as well with hopes of constructing another in Shanghai.

‘There is a pattern that's emerging,’ Stern said. ‘We see the building in Berlin is going to start a trend of major cities building arenas.

‘The mayor of Rome is almost at the cement pouring stage for a Rome arena. Real Madrid has plans for a building they have shared with us. If Real Madrid has a plan then Barcelona is going to have a plan.

‘You wind up with the emergence over a period of time the kind of footprint that's going to allow those conversations. It would have to be critical mass for purposes of travel and the like. It's something we will continue to watch.’

The NBA would be looking at adding new clubs rather than incorporating existing European teams, Stern said, but would not rule it out.

‘We're really thinking more about expansion teams in Europe in the decade,’ Stern said.

‘We're not focusing as much on the existing franchises as we are upon new franchises but we understand there would be over this period of time lots of negotiations.’

A willingness for European fans to pay NBA ticket prices is another factor Stern wants to see before putting NBA teams in Europe.

‘We see increased pricing, but not in European basketball the way it would have to be yet,’ Stern said.

Finding 75 new NBA-level players will not be a problem, Stern said, taking a swipe at football by saying, ‘More and more elite players are bouncing the ball rather than kicking it.’

Travel distances will not keep the NBA from the potential riches of European television revenues and sponsorship deals either, Stern said, citing a flight from Boston to Paris being shorter than one between Miami and Portland.

‘Travel is not going to be an issue and the logistics are not going to be an issue,’ Stern said.