NCAA Basketball Comes to London

NCAA Basketball Comes to London

Last Sunday we headed off to the O2 Arena in North Greenwich to take in a couple of basketball games. The event was called the Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase, though the players on show are likely future hall of famers as it was four American college teams playing. It marks the first time college hoops have been played in London.

First up was Marist College vs. University of Maine. Maine had a quite few Canadian players including one from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (where my parents live) and a Londoner, so we had to cheer for them. It was a close game but Marist came out on top.

Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase, O2 Arena
Marist vs Maine

The second game was the big draw, the one that a looot more people showed up for – University of Kentucky vs. University of Michigan. I had mentioned to Liz that these two schools have very high level basketball programs, and even during warm ups she said ‘you can tell’. A lot of NBA stars have come from these two teams. I was wearing the jersey of one of them.

Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase, O2 Arena
Kentucky vs Michigan

This is when we started noticing just how many people in attendence, and in particular wearing Kentucky and Michigan merch, were indeed American. Now what we couldn’t work out was:

  • A) Were they living in the UK?
  • B) Were they visiting the UK and came to watch?
  • C) Were they supporting basketball or supporting the schools?

There were also a handful of British folks who were wearing what we came to call their ‘American sports clothes’. There were a lot of NFL football teams and even an NHL hockey team represented in hats and jackets. Bless.

It was another mainly close game, but Kentucky pulled away in the end by a handful of points to take the win, much to the glee of the masses of Kentucky fans.

Hey there’s the BBL!

So during halftimes and what nots it was nice to see adverts for the British Basketball League up on the big screen. It needs any promo it can get. It seems we just can’t get folks engaged in British basketball. Here’s an arena full of hoops fans seeing ads for our local pro league – perfect!

However, during the Kentucky/Michigan game I popped out to the food area to get a snack. On my way back I stopped by the BBL marketing table and had a chat with the person there. She and I spoke about how few people she had signing up for a discount on BBL tickets. It’s a shame the league didn’t give her even so much as a flyer to give people.

So: an arena full of basketball fans who didn’t really want to look into the basketball that they can go see around the UK, and the UK top-tier league not willing to do much to entice new supporters.

While speaking with her, she tried to get a couple of guys to sign up. One asked if the London Lions are in the BBL. Yes, we both exclaimed. ‘Oh, I already get emails from them’. Ok then.

Which brings me back to my ponderings from above. Are a lot of these folks (ok, the Americans) here just visiting or just supporting the school and not really into supporting the sport?

Someday basketball will get a fair look in here, but it’s not this day.

A Few More Snaps…

Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase, O2 Arena
Juwan Howard is the head coach for Michigan. I have a few of his NBA rookie cards. He attended Michigan himself and was part of the Fab Five
Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase, O2 Arena
A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame was in attendance and it was only Rudy Tomjanovich! I know him best from his days of coaching the Houston Rockets in the early/mid 1990s.

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