Published on : 01/25/2020 – 01:09Modified : 01/25/2020 – 01:09
For the very first time in its history, the NBA made a stopover in Paris for a regular season game. For several days, the City of Lights put itself in the colors of basketball, until the momentum of the event: the duel between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Charlotte Hornets, Friday in Bercy. Back in pictures.
Since the 1990s, French basketball fans have dreamed of it. After hosting several pre-season games over the past two decades, Paris has finally been the scene of its very first NBA regular season game. A confrontation between the Charlotte Hornets and the Milwaukee Bucks, organized at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris-Bercy, which aroused a craze at the height of the influence of the North American Basketball League, economic juggernaut of “sport entertainment”.
Beyond the final result of a match whose stake was not gigantic – each team plays 82 in the regular season – it is especially the exceptional character of this relocation which will be remembered, since apart from London , no other European city has hosted an NBA game before. And Paris played the game. Back in pictures on this premiere.
It was therefore necessary to wait ten years for the NBA to tread French soil again. The last time was already in Bercy, for a preseason match between the New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Friday, January 24, 2020, it was during a regular season match that the Parisian enclosure was adorned with the colors of the North American Basketball League.
Bercy but not only, since the NBA has displayed itself in several places in the City of Lights. The town hall, in particular, welcomed the presence of American basketball by displaying two gigantic banners on its facade.
Difficult to evoke the NBA in France without associating the legend of the Blues Tony Parker. For the occasion, the emblematic player of the San Antonio Spurs was even the subject of a photo exhibition in the heart of Paris, at the foot of the Saint-Jacques Tower.
Clichés which retrace in particular the great moments of the career of “TP” across the Atlantic: 18 seasons, four sacred NBA (2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014) and a title of MVP of the Finals in 2007.
But it was indeed in front of the AccorHotels Arena that basketball fans gathered in the early afternoon, so as not to miss this great first. Five hours before the kick-off of the meeting, there were already several dozen kicking off the crane, in the winter cold of Paris.
Courageous who are ultimately the luckiest, since many are those who could not get tickets for the meeting. While Bercy can hold just over 16,000 seats, no less than 150,000 fans tried to buy seats, when it went on sale at the end of 2019. With the result, many disappointed.
But even for those who did not find a last minute ticket, the trip was not entirely in vain. Outside the precincts, the NBA also had its quarters where, from the early hours of the afternoon, fans could get jerseys, T-shirts, caps and hats bearing the image of the two franchises.
“Goodies” which, even at the price of gold – 30 euros for a hat for example – did not have trouble finding a buyer. The NBA, an economic giant, has always excelled in the art of distributing derivatives.
France, precisely, has always been a market with great potential for the NBA. Since the broadcast of the first games on television in the 90s, the popularity of the league has never been denied and the career of Tony Parker has confirmed this trend. Today, eight French people play in the NBA, the largest contingent outside the American continent. And one of them, Nicolas Batum, was also on the floor of Bercy, Friday evening.
But if Batum was applauded by the public in Bercy, the amateurs were not mistaken. It is to the Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo, MVP of the last season, that the biggest vivas were reserved. Logic, as the “Greak Freak” has become one of the standard bearers of the NBA.
If the Hornets have enjoyed a huge popularity rating in France since the early 90s, the Bucks are no longer outdone. Despite a starving record, the presence of Antetokounmpo in its ranks made the franchise of Milwaukee the fashionable team, especially among the youngest.
They were therefore finally quite numerous to celebrate the late success of the Bucks on the Hornets (116-103). A victory that emerged in the fourth quarter, after a long and close game, and which allows the Wisconsin franchise to consolidate its position as conference leader. Antetokounmpo, him, will have lived up to his standards, with 30 points and 16 rebounds.
But the real winner of this Parisian stopover is undoubtedly the NBA. Already guaranteed to return to Paris in 2021 for a new edition, she seems determined to make the French capital the anchor of her development strategy in Europe. And the presence of many stars and legends – basketball in Paris in recent days, will not fail to offer its French stopover considerable media exposure.