After last year's popular pre-season game between the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the O2 arena, the NBA are coming back and this time the Heat are on. They'll be practicing with some Nets as the teams from Miami and New Jersey face each other on October 12th in what will effectively be a second leg to their Paris friendly three days earlier. James Bidwell, chief executive of Visit London, commented:
The return of the NBA Live Tour to London is a tremendous boost for the capital. Last year's sellout game at the O2 attracted visitors from across the UK and Europe and bolstered London's reputation as the most prestigious global sporting city in the world.
Unlike the NFL, who are also returning this autumn, and the NHL, the US basketball setup is not going so far as to play real, proper fixtures in Europe, but, especially given the number of regular season matches that NBA teams play, we would be surprised if it didn't happen before long. Last year's visit of eventual NFL champions the New York Giants for a league game at Wembley revealed the unexpected British roots of a couple of their key players and, although neither the Heat nor the Nets feature anybody from our shores, there are a few Brits dotted around professional basketball including Sudanese-born Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls, who began his career with Brixton Topcats after his family were given political asylum in South Norwood, and fellow-Londoner Pops Mensah-Bonsu who is now with Benetton Treviso in Italy after spending last season at the Dallas Mavericks.
Miami Heat, not unlike their NFL counterparts the Dolphins, are really struggling in the current season and languish at the foot of the Southeast divisional table with only 13 wins and 59 losses. Basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal, who led the Heat to the NBA championship only two years ago, suffered injury setbacks and an unaccustomed tendency to fouls, was controversially traded to the Phoenix Suns this February and is presently involved in a war of words with his former club. Hitting form in Arizona, the veteran could most recently be seen assisting his new protege Amare Stoudemire in demolishing the Nets, delivering what Dave D'Alessandro of New Jersey paper The Star-Ledger described as "the unofficial death knell for the [Nets'] 2007-08 season." Both teams will be hoping the London buzz can offer them the kind of momentum it gave to the Giants.
When Londonist looked yesterday the best available pair of tickets were in block BK 108 in the Lower Tier at one end of the court and cost £70 + a £6.50 service charge each. The cheapest seats advertised were in the Upper Tier and would set you back a mere £30. If this is the event you really must do in style you could seek out the courtside tickets at up to £250.
Photo via my name is dan's Flickr stream.