Ben Gordon, one of two NBA stars signed up to the Great Britain basketball team for next summer's Olympic Games, says he hopes a successful British team would leave a "very big and very important" legacy for the sport in the UK. Gordon will join Luol Deng on the GB team; their respective NBA teams, the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls, play tonight.
Britain is not much of a basketball nation. It has only once had a team in an Olympic Games, in 1948, and they lost all five matches. Next year's team hope not to do quite as poorly, and have recruited the two NBA players to that end. Deng was born in Sudan but grew up in London and is in his seventh season with the Bulls. He had previously played for England at U16 and U19 levels.
Gordon, however, is a newer recruit to British basketball. He was born in London and moved to the US at a young age, but with the Olympics just over one year away, he is enthusiastic about the prospect of representing Britain in London. "It would be fantastic," he said. "I've got a lot of family and friends there, to be able to represent GB at the 2012 Olympics in London is something I never imagined doing. It would be a great honour."
His involvement alongside Deng should lift the burden on his former Chicago Bulls team-mate. "One of the games I watched last summer, he [Deng] had to make every big play, he put pressure on himself, so I could bring my offensive abilities, my play-making abilities," he said.
The recruitment of more NBA players into the British team would be Gordon's prescription if they want to win a medal next summer in what is a very competitive event. "A lot of other teams have pros with NBA experience, the top teams in Europe, so the more talented players we can get on the team the more we can compete, so we can represent the country the right way." Regarding the chances of taking a medal, Gordon said it was "hard to say right now". "I'd like to see us have all our best British players from around the world assembled on the team at the same time, then we can assess what sort of chances we have in 2012. It's very exciting, given everything we have."
Deng and Gordon have been team-mates before, playing together at Chicago for five years before the latter left for Detroit. Gordon anticipated some British interest in tonight's contest: "I assume the fans that follow both of us closely, the avid fans that watch NBA, probably have it marked down on their cards."
The NBA will return to London when the New Jersey Nets take on the Toronto Raptors on 4 and 5 March. Tickets are available now from www.theo2.co.uk