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NBA agrees Manchester matches as part of UK drive


NBA delighted to confirm Manchester link-up

By Andrew McKenzie
BBC Sport

The NBA has agreed to play a series of games in Manchester as part of its drive to promote basketball in the UK.

Team USA, made up of some of the NBA's top stars, will take part in a warm-up match in 2012 ahead of the defence of their Olympic title.

The USA women's team, who are also defending Olympic champions, will also play a friendly in Manchester in 2012.

Two NBA teams will then feature in a pre-season fixture in autumn 2013. The matches will be held at the MEN Arena.

Since 2007 the NBA has staged annual pre-season exhibition games in London.

On Friday, the New Jersey Nets will face the Toronto Raptors at the capital's O2 Arena in the first ever regular-season game to be played in Europe.

The two teams will then meet again on Saturday at the same venue, which will stage the basketball finals at the 2012 Olympics.

Ahead of the two fixtures the NBA has been staging a series of fan zones, coaching clinics and three-on-three competitions in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle as part of what they have dubbed NBA Basketball Week.

The NBA has a huge global following but it has struggled to make an impact in the UK.

However, the matches at the O2 Arena have proved a success. In 2009 the Chicago Bulls, featuring GB star Luol Deng, came to London to face the Utah Jazz, while NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers were the big attraction in 2010, when they were up against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Last year Paris, Barcelona and Milan also staged games featuring NBA teams.

WNBA team the Atlanta Dream will play at the MEN on 29 May this year, possibly against Great Britain's women's team, who will be preparing for June's EuroBasket tournament in Poland.

It will be the first time a WNBA team has played in Europe, and only the second time one has played outside the United States.

NBA Europe's senior vice president Sophie Goldschmidt said the games in Manchester would be in addition to their plans to continue to bring top level basketball to London.

"Manchester has made a big commitment over the next three years and we are very excited about it," she told BBC Sport. "Manchester has a rich sporting tradition in the city - mostly known for football - but it has the capacity and infrastructure to host world-class events and a proven track record.

"We are very committed to London as a market. It is a fantastic city to play games in and we plan to go back to London many more times."

The NBA's decision to bring its stars to Manchester comes at a time when GB's men and women are campaigning for the right to compete in the 2012 Olympics.

Neither team is guaranteed a place, with world governing body Fiba set to decide in March if it will grant host-nation spots .

Fiba has indicated it wants assurances of a long-term commitment to basketball before it will grant GB's men and women entry.

Manchester has not had a top-flight team in the British Basketball League since the Giants folded during the 2001-02 season.

The Manchester Magic play in the second-tier England Basketball League and their home games take place at the Amaechi Basketball Centre, built by British ex-NBA player John Amaechi, who grew up near the city.

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see also
Ex-USA guard backs GB for 2012
02 Feb 11 |  Basketball
GB coach calls for access for all
28 Jan 11 |  Basketball
GB 'must invest to get 2012 spot'
20 Jan 11 |  Basketball
US stars regain basketball gold
24 Aug 08 |  Basketball

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