London's Calling: Top 10 Cities that Deserve a Regular-Season NBA Game
The first night of the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets experiment in London has been a complete success. Fans welcomed both teams with open arms, and the atmosphere at the game rivaled that of a soccer match.
It goes without saying this was a great idea for the NBA to branch out and play regular season games overseas. With the current success of the games played in London, the topic arises about which cities the NBA should target next as a potential suitor for regular season action.
Here are 10 cities the NBA should consider.
Just Missing the Cut: Ankara, Turkey
Recognition of basketball in Turkey is rapidly growing.
Not only does Turkey currently have NBA players such as Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova and Semih Erden representing their country, but there are also former NBA players playing in the Turkish league.
Allen Iverson is probably the most recognizable player to have a stint in Turkey. Iverson's legacy alone has garnered more attention to basketball overseas.
Possible Matchup: Orlando Magic vs. Milwaukee Bucks
10. Vancouver, Canada
It is a sad truth that Vancouver couldn't hold on to the only other NBA franchise in Canada; even Commissioner David Stern regrets pulling the plug early on Vancouver, as do most Canadian basketball fans.
Now, I'm not going to say that Vancouver deserves another NBA team, but they definitely deserve to see a game or two in the city. They have a loyal basketball fan base, and the people have the right to enjoy some live NBA action once again.
Possible Matchup: Phoenix Suns vs. Sacramento Kings
9. Rome, Italy
The beauty of Rome itself should intrigue the NBA to partner with Italy and have regular-season action played there. Not only is the sightseeing in Italy breathtaking, but they also have some great players currently in the league, including Andrea Bargnani, Danilo Gallinari and Marco Belinelli.
With such great talent coming out of Italy, it should be no surprise that their national team isn't too shabby; Italy's men's basketball team won a silver medal in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
Considering Italy has a bright future in the NBA, it's only fitting the NBA branch out games to that wonderful country.
Possible Matchup: Toronto Raptors vs. Denver Nuggets
8. Berlin, Germany
Germany holds the distinction as the country with the greatest European basketball player ever to step foot into the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki.
What better way to thank this country for giving us such a great talent than supplying them with a regular-season matchup?
In addition to Nowitzki, Chris Kaman and Detlef Schrempf are the other most recognized German names in basketball.
Possible Matchup: Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Clippers
7. Johannesburg, South Africa
Although South Africa has never had any NBA players come out of its country, South Africa is still the most marketable country to host a regular-season game. South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which turned out to be a giant hit for the continent as a whole. Who's to say the NBA wouldn't create a similar buzz?
There are a number of players who have played in the NBA from other African countries, such as Dikembe Mutombo, Manute Bol and more recently, Serge Ibaka.
Frankly, a basketball game played anywhere in Africa would have a positive effect on their nation's youth and would only strengthen the knowledge of basketball throughout less-fortunate countries.
Possible Matchup: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Charlotte Bobcats
6. Sydney, Australia
Australia is quickly becoming a marketable country for basketball since the talent from this country continues to flourish. Australians in the NBA aren't a new trend, dating back to Luc Longley. Longley played 10 years in the league.
Fast-forward 10 years later. and there is a more prominent representation of Australians currently in the league with Andrew Bogut, Patrick Mills and David Anderson.
Possible Matchup: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Portland Trail Blazers
5. Paris, France
Just mentioning the NBA and France in the same sentence sounds natural. France is known for many things: wine, cheese, the Eiffel Tower and of course, beautiful women!
Soon enough, France will also been known for their basketball talent. Players coming out of this country include Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw.
France is tied with Serbia for the second-most foreign-born players to ever step foot in the NBA, trailing only Canada.
Possible Matchup: San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trail Blazers
4. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
With more than 190 million people living in Brazil alone, we are bound to find some talent within the population; Nene is currently the leader of the pack.
There is no denying that Brazil is widely dominated by soccer, but the basketball community still takes up a fair share of the demographic.
Aside from Nene, Leandro Barbosa, Taigo Splitter and Anderson Varejo are currently in the league.
I personally would love to see the NBA played in Brazil, as long at they have some Brazilian cheerleaders rooting on both teams.
Possible Matchup: Denver Nuggets vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina is by far one of the most polished basketball countries in the world and is always one of the more difficult opponents come time for the Olympics.
Their national team is stacked with great players like Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino—just to name a few.
If a regular season game was played in its nations capital, you could imagine that the atmosphere at the game would be unparalleled to almost any other city.
Possible Matchup: San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets
2. Madrid, Spain
Spain beats out Argentina by a hair on this list because of their recent success at the Olympics. I realize this list is about which cities are the best choices to host an NBA game and not about which is the better basketball country, but with success comes a large fan base.
Just like Argentina, Spain is stacked with incredible talent such as Jose Calderon, Marc and Pau Gasol, in addition to a potential NBA star in Ricky Rubio—if he ever decides to come to the NBA.
Spain is deserving of regular-season action because the country would really embrace the talent displayed on the court.
Possible Matchup: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Memphis Grizzlies
1. Beijing, China
Beijing is really a no-brainer as the No. 1 destination for a regular-season NBA game.
The first time Yao Ming played his fellow countryman Yi Jianlian, it was by far the most-watched NBA game in history. It was said to have been viewed by approximately 200 million people!
These numbers are quite eye-opening since the number of Super Bowl viewers don't come close to that.
Also, the NBA has to realize that any regular-season game would be a major hit in China. After all, the men's basketball event in the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games received probably the most attention by local fans in comparison to other events.
The dream matchup the NBA would love to have in China would be another battle between Yi and Yao, but Yao's days in basketball are probably numbered due to a string of nagging injuries.
Possible Matchup (aside from Yao): Washington Wizards vs. Los Angeles Lakers/Miami Heat