Basketball: London tip-off for regular NBA games

The NBA will stage two regular season games at London's O2 Arena next year, the first to be held in Europe, in an attempt to bolster the sport's – and the NBA's – popularity in the UK ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

The Greenwich venue has hosted exhibition games for the last three years – the next is in October when the LA Lakers take on Minnesota Timberwolves – but Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets will play back-to-back matches for real in March.

"The London Olympics is an extraordinary opportunity to continue the growth of basketball in Europe and the UK," said David Stern, the NBA's commissioner. "We are not making any promises and we will assess the impact in March, but we would not be surprised to see this become an annual event."

Tickets will go on sale next month for the games on 4 and 5 March – a "home" and "away" tie for each side. October's event is already sold out and demand is expected to be high at the 23,000-seat venue, which will also host the Olympic basketball final.

The NBA, which has targeted Europe recently, has held regular season games in Japan since 1990. Unlike the Premier League's attempt to copy the initiative with the 39th game, it has been well received by teams and fans.

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