There’s something about American sport that captivates people all over the world. Whether it’s the raucous riot of the NFL or the pure athleticism and relentless end-to-end energy of the NBA, we're transfixed by the atmoshpere. While London’s flirtation with the NFL is now relatively well established (tickets to see the NFL at Wembley this year sold out in hours), London’s appetite for American sport stepped up a level, with the NBA resolving to bring regular season fixtures to the O2 courtesy of a partnership with Muller Rice (note: these are real-deal games that matter, they’re not exhibition matches).
Don't get me wrong, I love watching British sport (especially rugby) but the Americans have long recognised, more astutely than perhaps anyone else, that a large part of professional sporting matches is about entertaining the crowd. So why not add a bit of flair – why not have a little bit of a party?
That quintessentially American approach to sport was on full display in the O2 arena last night, where the Toronto Raptors took on and eventually beat (in a thrilling encounter that spilled into overtime) the Orlando Magic in front of a full house, interspersed with high-energy cheerleading performances, acrobatic dunking and generally a much higher degree of crowd interaction.
A game that some may have thought forgotten in the UK, is in actual fact in full swing and gaining in popularity.
6 things you probably don't know about basketball
1. On January 15, 1892, the physician and sports coach Dr James Naismith published the rules of his newly invented game of basketball. His motivation is variously given as a desire to have a game less injury-prone than football
2. Basketball has been included at every Olympics since 1936 and was a demonstration sport in 1904.
3. The Women's British Basketball League was formed in 2014. "Growth of the sport across the whole basketball market is something that England Basketball is very passionate about," said Chief executive Huw Morgan. ""Providing more girls and women with the chance to continue their journey to the top of the game is essential for both improving the performance of players on court today and creating an aspirational pathway for the players of tomorrow."
4. Stef Collins is the most capped female basketball player in Britain, with 121 to date.
5. According to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, basketball is now the second most popular sport played in the UK by 11- to 15-year-olds, with 32% of children playing (only football – with 54% – was more popular).
5. You can burn up to 272 calories in a half an hour game.
Muller Rice is proud to partner with the NBA to help athletes go distance.