The Budweiser Championships represent an upturn in the fortunes of British basketball. The league's year-old alliance with Budweiser has been a successful one, with new teams attracting sponsorship, international players and, more importantly, fans to their new venues. Moreover, the sport has achieved increased coverage and is now shown alongside its American twin on Sky Sports.
In recent years British basketball has suffered in comparison to its American counterpart. English fans of the sport appeared few, and those who were interested naturally craved glimpses of the American National Basketball Association. No British team could compare, for example, to the razzmatazz of the stylish Los Angeles Lakers. No British player could compete against the sublime talents of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.
Poor funding created its own problems, with Kingston, the dominant team of the 1980s, going bankrupt. Through lack of funds the British game stagnated, with English teams usually unable to attract the American players and coaches needed to improve standards. British basketball in 1995 could not be more contrasting.
Backed by big business, new teams have taken up residence in large venues like the Docklands and Wembley Arenas, (home to the Leopards and London Towers respectively) and the fans are now attending in record numbers.
More importantly the standard of basketball in Britain is constantly improving, and last week's All-Star game exhibited the talent on offer in this country. The Budweiser League is now seen by many talented Americans coaches and players as a possible stepping-stone to the NBA.
This weekend is the showpiece of the year, with several finals over two days. Consequently, a wide range of basketball will be on view with teams from the National Basketball League playing for honours alongside the leading Budweiser teams. The country's premier team, the Sheffield Sharks, will also be present, led by their recently selected player of the year, Roger "Huggy Bear" Huggins. They will be the team to beat, both this weekend and next year in the Budweiser League.
How to get there: Using the London Underground, take the Jubilee or Metropolitan Line service to Wembley Park Station (the Metropolitan line is much faster and calls at fewer stations). Wembley Arena is a few hundred yards away and is excellently signposted. Seats available tomorrow from £9-£17, children from £6 (7.30pm). Sunday (finals day): £8-£22.50 (11.0am). Weekend tickets can be purchased from £12-£32. (Tel: 0181 900 1234).Reuse content