For the sixth time since 2011, the NBA will be coming to London with a regular-season showcase at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017. The annual game has been a resounding hit since its incarnation five years ago and is one of the high points in the calendar for European fans.
2016 saw the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic do battle in an overtime thriller as the Canadian franchise ran out 106-103 winners. For the first time in regular season Global Games history, a Western Conference team will be making its way to the capital city.
It has been announced that the young, developing Denver Nuggets will face off against All-Star talent Paul George and his Indiana Pacers teammates. Neither franchise has taken part in the event before.
Indiana is coming off the back of a strong season as they returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence. George is back in top form following his horrific injury in 2014, and he will be the main draw for the event.
New head coach Nate McMillan will be hopeful they can go one step further having added a player of Jeff Teague's calibre at the one spot. Having lost 4-3 in the first round of the playoffs to the Raptors, Larry Bird parted ways with head coach Frank Vogel and the Pacers embarked on a new era.
George stated: “I’m really excited and thankful the NBA is allowing us to reach out to our fans in London. This is great exposure for our team and our franchise. I think it will be a great experience for us and the fans in attendance.”
The Nuggets are in the midst of a rebuild and have a number of up and coming players on their roster. Much like Jonas Valanciunas this year, the European players will be a big selling point, and Denver has Jusuf Nurkic, Danilo Gallinari and Nikola Jokic to call upon.
They finished 11th in the west, eight games back from a playoff spot. A postseason birth may be beyond them next season, but an improvement will warrant a successful year for the team led by Michael Malone. A win in London could be the highlight of their season.
Italian Gallinari is looking forward to the game, saying: “It will be a true honour and a great experience to represent both the Nuggets and the NBA in London as part of the NBA Global Games in 2017. Our entire team and organization are looking forward to this opportunity to showcase our league to fans overseas.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said: “We are thrilled to return for our seventh regular-season game in London. With almost 25 percent of players in the NBA born outside of the United States, we are seeing firsthand the global growth of our game, which has never been more popular in the U.K.”
Tickets for the game will go on sale at the beginning of the 2016-17 NBA season. Fans in the U.K. will be able to watch the game live on BT Sport, while fans in Europe will be able to view it through the NBA’s official local broadcast partners.