Cleveland-Brooklyn as a warm-up this year… before the Wembanyama madness in 2025

The North American league is organizing its fourth regular season match in Paris this Thursday, before coming back with “Wemby” in its luggage next year.

“There has never been a better time to be a NBA fan in France than today,” says Mark Tatum, assistant to the big boss Adam Silver. It must be said that the powerful North American basketball league takes particular care of France, such an important market in its international development. Because yes, if the NBA returns to the banks of the Seine this Thursday, with a regular season match pitting the Cleveland Cavs against the Brooklyn Nets, it is not out of philanthropy or to enjoy the charms of the City of Light. In the United States, they don’t have the same modesty on this kind of subject as they do on this side of the Atlantic. For the Association, France represents a huge opportunity. And not only since the emergence of a boy who could “become a global icon for the next 20 years,” Victor Wembanyama, as Adam Silver rejoices.

This is the third time that the NBA has organized a regular season match in Paris, after nine matches in eight years in London. It will be four next season. That’s for sure. What match? The Athletic has raised the suspense: “Wemby” and the Spurs will be there in 2025, probably against Indiana. Adam Silver did not confirm this information… but it’s all the same. “We’re not ready to confirm the news but we’re very focused on the idea of bringing the Spurs to Paris,” he said Wednesday during a round table with a few media outlets, including Le Figaro, adding that “Victor really wants to do it” and suggesting that everything would be wrapped up in the coming weeks. Beyond his words, it’s the smile of David Stern’s successor at a round table with a few media outlets, including Le Figaro, adding that “Victor really wants to do it” and suggesting that everything would be wrapped up in the coming weeks. Beyond his words, it’s the smile of David Stern’s successor moving through the questions on the subject that indicates that there is no doubt. All that’s left are the signatures.

We can imagine the frenzy that will seize the French capital on this occasion, even if the native of Le Chesnay will have already played on the stages of Lille and Paris next summer, on the occasion of the Olympic Games. “Wemby,” a headliner on the French scale, but not only. The impact of the French giant (2.24m) is already “enormous” in the NBA, this league increasingly turned towards the international. “I was there 30 years ago for the first preseason game in France, in 1994, and now we have 14 French players in the NBA, nearly 30% foreigners …,” says Silver, estimating that the league “must keep an international approach.” With “Wemby” as an ambassador, he’s got it right.

“Victor is very French, but he’s a global citizen when it comes to basketball,” says Adam Silver. He reminds me of Yao Ming in terms of his ability to reach a global audience. He is multidimensional, multifaceted, not only as a player but as a person. I don’t want to put any more pressure on him, he already puts it on himself. His dunk against the Celtics broke the internet (laughs). It’s fun to see what he can do on the court,” said Silver.

The NBA is not the least bit worried about seeing so many international players dominate its league, from Nikola Jokic to Joel Embiid, including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic. Not an exhaustive list. “A decade ago, we wondered if it was good for the game, but not anymore. Americans support players in their market as if they were their own. For people in Texas, Victor Wembanyama is a Texan. The same goes for Giannis Antetokounmpo in Wisconsin. They are citizens of the world,” swears Silver, delighted to be able to bring the NBA footprint to the public, in France and elsewhere, via matches but also a host of various initiatives, particularly towards young people. Last year, on the sidelines of the match in Paris, President Macron and Adam Silver announced a partnership including “a series of initiatives aimed at elevating basketball in France and Africa at all levels”. The NBA works hand in hand with the FFBB, the LNB and the government.

Meanwhile, the arrival of “SA” in 2025, let’s focus on this showdown between the Cavs and the Nets. No French players. Two teams vying for a spot in the playoffs in the East but certainly not for the title. Some very good players, including Donovan Mitchell on the Cleveland side and Mikal Bridges for Brooklyn, but no superstar on the level of the “Greek Freak” in 2019. Nevertheless, let’s not spoil our fun: it’s a promising match between two teams focused on offense, two young and spectacular teams. “It’s going to be fast,” savors Jacques Monclar, a beIN SPORTS consultant, the broadcaster of the NBA in France. This match will also be broadcast on Canal+.

It should be noted that, for once, not all tickets had been sold out by Wednesday. There were still a few, ranging from 300 to 900 euros. “We put the tickets back on very late. It will be full,” brushes aside Adam Silver, who does not hide the fact that he is negotiating to return to Paris beyond 2025. Around the match, the North American league has also organized a number of events in the four corners of the capital: a photo session for the two teams in front of the Eiffel Tower, the opening of a temporary pizzeria in the colors of the Nets, “clinics” for boys and girls with former players (Tony Parker, Mike Piétrus, Ian Mahinmi …) and renowned coaches (Vincent Collet, Cathy Mélain, Christophe Denis …), open training sessions for the two teams to the media at Cerdan (Levallois), the opening of an NBA House… There was plenty to do. And even if the NBA and Adam Silver know that new technologies make it possible to reach even more fans around the world: “The progress has already been exceptional since I arrived in the NBA 31 years ago, we can go even faster with the new technologies.”

Now it’s time for the game, with this match resembling a “European All Star Game,” as Mark Tatum indicated. “It will be fun to play in front of the fans here in Paris. They love and admire basketball. I just hope we can come and offer them a great show,” says Cavalier Max Strus, while his teammate Donovan Mitchell always keeps in mind the idea of “inspiring the youth.” “France has a good culture, good teams, lots of good players, it’s definitely a good basketball country,” swears Net Cam Johnson.
Don’t be mistaken: it’s a regular season game, a game that counts, with two teams vying for a spot in the playoffs. A good news for the Parisian public, which should enjoy themselves, while waiting for “Wemby” next year.

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