One would think, after committing time and significant resources to the NBA publicity tour that was officially known as "Team USA Men Basketball" last summer, that the league would be quick to tap into the United Kingdom's potential following Team USA's gold-medal run in the 2012 London Olympics. Instead, we found out Wednesday that it took until the fifth week of the NBA's 2012-13 regular season for the league to hammer out a deal with ESPN's UK arm to air NBA telecasts.
That's right. The league couldn't even get it together with an offshoot of the company that already holds its stateside rights. Seems like a real Gary Bettman-move, there, commissioner.
The coverage begins on Thursday night with New York Knicks versus Miami Heat and will include three live games per week, NBA All Star Game, First and Second Round NBA Play-off coverage, Western Conference Finals, and NBA Finals.
It comes after Commissioner David Stern took a personal interest in ending the blackout. It is understood the league also held talks with Sky Sports but have, so far, been unable to reach an agreement.
"Through our continued partnership with ESPN, fans in the UK and Ireland can look forward to weekly games and an array of NBA programming for the remainder of the 2012-13 NBA Season," said Dan Markham, Vice President, NBA Media Distribution & Emerging Markets.
Simon Potter, head of programming and production, ESPN EMEA, added: "We're very pleased to have the NBA returning to ESPN this season, and are looking forward to getting straight into the action and bringing UK and Ireland fans the world's top basketball league with some great early match-ups."
No Turner-broadcasted Eastern Conference finals will air, apparently, which is bummer news for any fans in the United Kingdom hoping to see potential matchup between the league's best player (LeBron James) and either two teams (the Knicks, the Nets) in the NBA's biggest market.
Your move, Bettman.
To say that the NBA doesn't register on the UK's radar would be inappropriate, but it is down the list in terms of popularity and impact — I've heard some Englishman recently use the name "Dennis Rodman" when attempting to cite something designed for a very tall basketball player, and D-Rod hasn't been on an NBA court in nearly 13 years. The crazed NBA fans, though, like our pal Mark Deeks of everyone's go-to NBA salary site ShamSports.com, know the game inside-out.
As a result, they probably also know the ins and outs of the various pop-up heavy illegal streaming sites needed to catch most NBA basketball games on their side of the Atlantic. And, as a result of that, they probably also know the ins and outs of malware avoidance and anti-virus applications. So, good thing David Stern just made their 1 AM local viewing times go down a little easier.
In celebration, we now present a picture of Shaquille O'Neal bounding out of a London-styled 20th century relic known as a "phone booth."