The Ball brothers circus is heading to the British capital on Easter Monday (April 2).
British Basketball League side the London Lions host LKL strugglers Vytautas at the Copperbox Arena in a Big Baller Brand exhibition with the game already attracting attention and will likely sell-out the 7,000-seat venue.
The BBL itself has certainly received more attention and exposure over the last two years, mainly due to its deal with LiveBasketball.tv, where every game is streamed along with at least two of those games broadcast on BBC Sport’s red button and FreeSports TV every week.
The league has also taken advantage of its social media presence as well, with regular tweets, Facebook posts, videos and highlight plays, which the BBL’s social media team successfully take advantage of. One of the highlight plays of this season; which was Sheffield Sharks’ Dirk Williams going coast-to-coast with a one-hand slam against Surrey Scorchers went viral, receiving 913 likes and getting attention from Ballislife.com and ESPN SportsCenter, who both got thousands of reactions from fans all over the world from retweeting that play.
— British Basketball League (@BBLofficial) January 12, 2018
The NBA even got on the act as Tas Melas presented an interesting documentary about the London Lions and the state of basketball in the UK during the NBA’s annual visit in January when the Celtics met the Sixers at the O2 Arena.
The Ball brothers visit to London will not be as near to the hype that surrounded the NBA’s visit. However, it will only heighten the BBL’s name. That is one of the pros – and we will now look at more positives along with the negatives of the latest chapter of ‘Ball in the Family’.
British Basketball exposure: It’s something that the sport in Great Britain desperately needs now more than ever. British Basketball needs £1million in order to fund its eight national sides from the juniors right up to the senior men’s and women’s teams. If they don’t raise that money soon then it’s certain that FIBA will suspend British Basketball for two years and eliminated from competing in future FIBA events.
That includes the Eurobasket Women 2019 qualifiers, where GB currently sit top of their pool with a 3-1 record and the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, where GB’s men face a must-win situation in June and early July if they are to stay in the hunt for a place in China, next year.
But the men might not even make it to June. The women might not make it to the finals to be staged in Serbia and Latvia by default. If there is no money to assist British Basketball then there will not be any GB national teams.
Now while this game will not help fund the GB national team. There will be enough awareness to the cause through this game.
Professional basketball noticed in London: With London boasting a population of 8.7 million, this game could spread the word around that London has a professional basketball team. The Lions average about 1,400 a game in an arena that seats roughly 7,000.
For their BBL games, they don’t usually open the upper tier but with the Balls in town, there is no doubt that the Copperbox nosebleeds will be dusted off in preparation. This will provide the Lions with an opportunity to promote and market their team. Hire volunteers to hand out flyers for remaining home games, learn more about the team, get the name out there.
It’s the Balls: Whether you like them or not, the mere fact that LaMelo and LiAngelo are playing with LaVar lingering courtside is going to bring worldwide attention, which in turn will give the Lions attention and British basketball attention. To sum it up, all three of the plus points listed are in fact rounded up into one. The Balls visit does benefit the British game.
London select: With the London Lions fitting this game into an already tight schedule, there is no hope that the actual BBL team will compete in this one-off event. With the BBL taking the obvious priority, Vince Macaulay’s team has three games in four days before the Vytautas clash with a home game against league leaders Leicester Riders coming the night before.
So this gives the public a chance to see London Lions players from seasons past don a yellow and purple vest for one night only. Of course dependant on a player being allowed a release of his club for the one game.
London Lietuva: Like Zalgiris coming to London in pre-season, this game will draw a massive Lithuanian contingent. Mention basketball and they will flock, regardless of which team is heading their way.
London also populates the most Lithuanians outside of Lithuania with a total of 40,000 settled in the British capital alone, so a sea of green, red and yellow will be in force on April 2.
Timing: While it has its lucrative ties, the timing of this fixture is appalling, given that the Lions have a heavy workload of games that could determine if they reach the BBL Playoffs or not.
True, coach Macaulay will rely on a different group of players that will be there for him with several players already being contacted to play. Nevertheless, any hopes of the timing improving on this would have been for the end of the season, but by then, the Balls would have flown back home with the fixture deemed meaningless.
It won’t be the London Lions: While the posters, the press releases and promotion points towards the London Lions competing, with the aforementioned BBL fixtures piling up, this “Lions” team will be a totally different side to the one that will play Leicester the night before at the Copperbox.
While it will be great to see London ballers and former London Lions players in action – at the same time – the intrigue of seeing how a BBL team gets on against an LKL unit is taken away immediately as it won’t be the actual London Lions side playing.
Don’t expect a basketball game: If you’ve bought a ticket to watch a competitive game of basketball, then you’re going to be disappointed.
Granted, there will be entertainment and the day itself will be memorable, but many long-time British basketball fans enjoy a competitive game, and in reality, this will be a glorified scrimmage with little to no defence being offered and many botched up plays. Think the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, but a much lower standard. If you can’t remember that game, here are the highlights.