Clyde Drexler foresees NBA franchise in London

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LONDON (AP) - NBA great Clyde Drexler can foresee a league franchise being based in London, maybe even within the next decade.

Clyde the Glide,” in the British capital to help promote the first regular-season NBA games to be played in London in March, said Wednesday that basketball has proven itself in Europe and expansion to the continent may just be a matter of time.

“If the demand continues, that could actually happen,” Drexler told The Associated Press. “We’re probably 10 years or so away, but that is not too farsighted to happen.”

The NBA has played preseason games in London for the past four years, packing fans into the O2 Arena. Late last year, the league decided it was time to emulate the NHL and NFL, both of which have played regular-season games in London.

The Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets will play a pair of games at the O2 on March 4-5.

Basketball is a global sport,” said Drexler, who spent more than a decade playing for the Portland Trail Blazers. “There’s a demand around the world, and David Stern our commissioner is trying to facilitate that demand.”

And the distance, Drexler said, won’t be a problem for anyone.

“Even games coming from Oregon to New York are far, but that never stopped anything,” Drexler said. “It’s about as far as New York to London. It’s all relative. Every team has a private charter. They can go all over the world.”

One way to push the game to the soccer-loving public in Britain is NBA Basketball Week, a series of youth-oriented events that will take place in five cities leading up to the two games.

“Fans from all over will get a chance to see what NBA action is all about,” Drexler said. “They’ll have a lot of clinics, jam sessions. That’ll be happening daily.”

Besides London, the basketball week will also hit the road to Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle.

Basketball has given me so many opportunities in life and I am happy that the NBA is bringing events like this to the U.K., because it will give boys, girls and fans of all ages the chance to play the game I love,” said Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng, who grew up in Britain.

As far as Drexler is concerned, though, the NBA isn’t done making its mark in Europe.

“There are going to be some teams in Europe. There are going to be some teams in Asia. And they’re all going to be a part of the NBA umbrella, eventually,” Drexler said. “That’s the global plan.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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