NEW YORK, August 10 – The NBA will play regular-season games in Europe for the first time when Toronto and New Jersey play a pair of games in London during the upcoming season, commissioner David Stern said Monday.The teams will face each other March 4 and 5 at the O2 Arena, which has hosted pre-season games for several years.
Speaking on a conference call, Stern said he did not yet know if regular-season games across the pond would become a regular feature of the schedule.
"We’ll need to assess how we do in March," Stern said. "It would not surprise me if this becomes an annual event. But I don’t want to make a commitment on it."
The NBA has long sought to expand its audience overseas, and Stern had said before that he would like to see a meaningful game played in London before the city hosts the 2012 Olympics.
Before the upcoming season begins, the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves will each play two games in the fifth installment of the NBA’s pre-season Europe Live Tour.
The reigning champion Lakers will face the Timberwolves at the O2 Arena on October 4 and then play Barcelona in Spain three days later.
The NFL will play a regular-season game in London for the fourth straight season when the San Francisco 49ers face the Denver Broncos on October 31 at Wembley Stadium.
The NHL has also played regular-season games in London, and still does so in other European cities.
Stern said it wasn’t impossible that the NBA would eventually include European teams, but indicated it wouldn’t happen soon.
"I think one franchise doesn’t work. It needs to be multiple franchises," he said. "We need buildings … we need owners … we need a better economy.
"It’s certainly something that I and my successors will be considering."