(A live report from MAMBINO correspondent Sip Rogers, an expatriate New York Knicks fan who lives and works in London. He attended the Knicks-Pistons game on Thursday night at the O2 arena on the Eastside of town. Here's his firsthand recap)
Just got back from the NBA's first regular season game in London and to sum it up, it was amazing.
First a little actual basketball talk. The Knicks played well in a 102-87 win, outclassing the Pistons most of the game, including a 15 point lead at halftime. As they game wore on, they were able to stifle any runs the Pistons had in them, mostly from Will Bynum (and man, can that guy can drive).
Iman Shumpert finally is back for the Knicks, giant flat top in tow. He started the game, which was surprising for his return. He ended up scoring 8 points in 15 minutes. Amar'e had 17 in 20 minutes, but the quietest 17 I've seen in awhile. There wasn't too much to the actual game itself; it was a blowout against the Pistons, whose best player is Greg Monroe and the most explosive guard is Will Bynum.
As for the event in London, the NBA, Knicks and Pistons did a great great job. As hard as it is to believe, it actually felt like a real NBA game. They fixed the courtside seats problem from the Olympics, as in, now there were floor seats (whereas during the summer, spectators were so far away from the court that the camera angle made it appear as if no one was watching live). The O2 arena was sold out and rocking. The crowd remained into the game the whole time and was, to my delight, very pro-Knicks. There were a decent chunk of expats (but less than I expected) and plenty of Euros in attendance. However, what surprised me most was a really good amount of Brits were wearing Knicks gear, cheering the Knicks and talking basketball. Stunning, really. This is a city as big as New York, so I'm not surprised that there are NBA fans hiding but...I don't know where they have been as long as I've lived here. After all, there are a ton of English Premiere League fans in the Mecca, but I'm not sure where they hide out. People aren't talking about Robin Van Persie on the corner of 51st and Lexington, right?
Certainly a great sign for the NBA that so many Brits were actual fans. The NFL classically has the issue with their game in London, no matter who is playing. They have a hard time hocking 80,000 seats even with 80,000 expats living in Europe. The NBA seems to have dodged that already.
A couple of nice touches: the Knicks brought along their organ player from MSG, which made the O2 sound even more like a game at the Garden. The Pistons brought along their announcer, because after all, it was a Detroit home game. Was nice to hear the sounds of "Deeeeetttrrooooooiiiitttt Baaaaassssskeeeetttbaaaallll" echoing through the arena. Spike Lee made the trip across the pond, sitting courtside next to Baron Davis. Plenty of Premier League soccer players in the crowd; Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry, Joe Cole and our favorite American Clint Dempsey...who of course sat next to the Knicks bench with a dime piece.
BTW, no sign of Dolan, I scoured the crowd for him. I guess JD and the Straight Shot doesn't travel across international waters.