On Sunday, a sold-out crowd at the O2 saw, for the second year in a row, a stellar example of what makes the NBA such a popular attraction in the States: sheer, unbridled athleticism by players whose every spring seems to inviolate the laws of gravity.
This pre-season "exhibition game" - friendly, in other words - pitted the Miami Heat against the New Jersey Nets, with Heat's Dwyane Wade and the Nets' Vince Carter the respective supermen on either team. And it was Carter, best remembered in Europe for a stunning dunk he made by literally jumping over the head of 7'2" Frenchman Frédéric Weis in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, who had the edge, three free throws in the dying seconds easing his side to a 94-92 win.
Carter took 19 points, equalled by the Heat's Marcus Banks, while Dwyane Wade had 18 to his name. Still, Wade wasn't entirely outshone - the Palm Beach Post reported that at one point in the second quarter Wade executed "a tomahawk slam with legs kicked out wide in a Jordanesque pose" - champagne basketball, and a move to which "the crowd erupted". Such a reaction from the 16,500 spectators, who clearly knew the game well, is something that League commissioner David Stern hopes can be tapped. He believes basketball can follow the path laid by the NHL and NFL by introducing regular-season games in London within the next four years.
Stern sees 2012 as being the perfect opportunity to launch the NBA in Britain, much in the way the 1994 World Cup was supposed to spark American interest in good ol' soccer. If that's the case, then we'll have to stage a b-ball themed re-hash of Diana Ross' memorable cockup at the opening ceremony: Cheryl Cole nearly garroting herself after slipping while attempting a springboard slam-dunk might work.