O2: The Venue Of Champions

Toronto Raptors will face the New Jersey Nets at the O2 Arena in London, England on March 4th-5th. These will be the first games to be played outside North America, and TalkBasket’s Keith Firmin is there to capture it all.

I’ve been to the O2 before on a couple of occasions.

The first time was to watch the newly formed trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen take on the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves back in 2007. The second visit came a year later as I watched a moderately motivated Vince Carter take on a supremely talented Dwyane Wade when the Nets battled the Heat.

And shock-horror, the reason I’m back at the O2 again is to watch the New Jersey Nets return to London to face off against the Toronto Raptors in what will be the first NBA game ever to be played outside of the U.S and Canada.

In the two years since I was last here, the O2 hasn’t really changed much.  The most surprising part of that, is that nothing much needs to change.

With a selection of over 20 restaurants and cafes, the O2 is well prepared for the thousands of visitors it receives for the numerous events it hosts every week.

The lights are bright, the service is friendly and more importantly, the events on offer are show stopping.

From Justin Bieber and Enrique Iglesias to the Shakespearian stylings of Romeo and Juliet, the O2 has a list of headliners that are big enough to stop traffic.

And that’s the downside of the O2 arena.

It’s accessible by both road and rail but be wary if you choose train travel as your preferred means of transport because  dependant on what time you travel at, your journey on the Jubilee line may be accompanied by an armpit smothering your face such is the gross overcrowding of the tubes around rush hour.

But if you can stomach a journey through London to the O2, your determination will be rewarded.  There’s a magic surrounding the O2 that can’t be ignored. It’s like the build up to Christmas: you know something special is around the corner.

And while it may be two of the lesser NBA teams taking centre stage at the O2 this coming 4th/5th March, there is no doubt that should the NBA play more regular season games overseas in the future, as per the dreams of NBA Commissioner David Stern, the O2 will be right near the top of the list when it comes to host venues.

The only thing to remember, as with basketball, is to avoid travelling.