Carmelo Anthony leads Knicks rout to ensure happy NBA returns in London

In the end, the NBA's city break to London was scripted so perfectly it could have been sports entertainment.

The New York Knicks beat the Detroit Pistons 102‑87. Their star player, Carmelo Anthony, top‑scored with 26 points. And the sell‑out crowd of 18,689 at the O2 cheered and whooped all night long.

No wonder NBA commissioner David Stern admitted: "For my money we can't come back here enough." Stern is likely to get his wish. He is the boss, after all. According to sources, the NBA is considering a pre-season game in Manchester at the MEN Arena later this year and another regular season game in London next season.

Thursday night's game was as much a spectacle as a contest; a giant slab of American sport transplanted into south-east London for one night only. That was just as well, for the Knicks jump-started into a 13-2 lead and never relinquished it – although the gap did briefly close to four points midway through the third quarter before the Knicks stretched away.

Unsurprisingly, it was Anthony who ran the show. There were shouts of "MVP MVP" whenever he sunk a basket.

It was pounding, exhilarating and relentlessly corporate. During timeouts fans competed to win a pair of Adidas D Rose shoes or participated in the Foot Locker three-point contest for the chance to attend the All-Star Game in Houston. When the commercials stopped, Ray Castoldi, the Knicks' In-Arena organist for more than 20 years, added an a touch of class with old school tunes.

There were echoes of the past too in the posters outside the O2, which gave a history lesson to fans: from George Mikan, Mr Basketball, who pioneered the professional era to familiar names of a more recent vintage: Magic. Larry. Jordan. The crowd didn't need much educating. John Starks and Bill Laimbeer, former NBA legends, got bigger cheers than Spike Lee and Thierry Henry. There is likely to be more of this.

As Stern pointed out: "We increasingly have owners who are focused on global business opportunities, and as the game of basketball grows there will be more opportunities in Europe." With fans happy to pay for tickets priced between £35-£500 they will be counting the money.

However Stern was critical of UK Sport's decision to cut funding to British basketball, saying the decision "confounded" him. He added: "They talk about exercise, health, fitness and teamwork as great attributes especially in a world that's dealing with obesity and diabetes. And they talk about our game being very diverse. And especially for a country that's been bemoaning that it's shutting down parks and gymnasiums, the decision confounds me."

Stern also confirmed that he had held meetings with the Premier League chief Richard Scudamore, but he said the NBA had no plans to overtake football in England. "Are you kidding?" he said. "We just want to work our way up to some place under cricket and rugby. I met up with Richard to make us smarter." On this evidence the Premier League will be taking notes too.

Powered by article was written by Sean Ingle at the O2 Arena, for The Guardian on Friday 18th January 2013 00.31 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Mike Disharoon