Schedule Release '17 | Sixers Tapped to Represent League Abroad

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

CAMDEN - London called, and the 76ers answered.

Thursday, it was announced that the Sixers will be heading to the English capital on January 11th to face the Boston Celtics for the NBA London Game 2018. The contest will be held at the 20,000-seat O2 Arena, which opened in 2007, and served as the primary site for hoops during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

“Participating in NBA London Game 2018 is a great opportunity for our players to compete in front of an international audience at the historic O2 Arena,” said Brett Brown, who coached Team Australia in London the year before joining the Sixers. “I have fond memories of coaching the Australian national team in London. The basketball fans there are very passionate, and I am looking forward to playing the Celtics there in January.”

As is one of the top prospects on the Sixers’ roster.

“I look forward to coming back to London with the Sixers after visiting for the first time this summer,” said Joel Embiid, an avid soccer fan. “We are a young, hungry team and will be sure to give the fans an exciting game against Boston in January.”

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For the Sixers, the tilt will mark the franchise’s first-ever regular season appearance on foreign soil, with the exception of visits to Atlantic Division rival Toronto. The Sixers are set to serve as as official “home team” in the London Game, with the outcome counting towards their 82-game record.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to showcase our dynamic team filled with exciting international players to a fan base that has a clear passion for world-class sporting events,” said Sixers Managing General Partner Josh Harris, who also owns the English Premiere League team Crystal Palace. “It’s especially exciting to have the Sixers face off against the Boston Celtics on Thursday, to be followed by Crystal Palace’s Saturday match-up against Burney nearby in South London.”

“London is an incredible sports city, which I know well having lived there for 10 years,” David Blitzer said. Blitzer is co-Managing General Partner of the Sixers, and, along with Harris, purchased Crystal Palace in December of 2015. The Sixers also manage the esports franchise Team Dignitas, whose owner, Michael O’Dell, resides in London.

“It’s really exciting and encouraging to see the NBA continue to skyrocket in popularity internationally,” said Blitzer.

In a sense, it certainly seems fitting that the Sixers were tapped to help represent the league on the international circuit. They have, after all, become one of the NBA’s most diverse clubs.

Revisit last season, for instance. Seven players of foreign descent suited up for the squad. Five of those players - Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (France), Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Dario Saric (Croatia), Ben Simmons (Australia), and Nik Stauskas (Canada) - are all set to return to the Sixers this fall.

Furthermore, Furkan Korkmaz, a native of Turkey who was chosen 26th overall in the 2016 draft, formally signed with the Sixers this past July, days after President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo acquired international prospects Anzejs Pasecniks (Latvia), Jonah Bolden (Australia), and Mathias Lessort (France) in the draft.

Colangelo has made a point of casting a wide a net when mining for prospects.

“We put a lot of focus and effort on that,” he said the night of this year’s draft. “It’s a global game, and we’re looking everywhere for the best talent. The league right now is over 25 percent foreign-born, or international, so it speaks to just how global the league is becoming.”

Having long placed an emphasis on expanding the sport’s reach, the NBA began holding regular season games overseas in the early 1990s, doing so at first exclusively in Japan. But in 1997, the league gradually started to branch out, with a clash between the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks in Mexico City.

While a handful of pre-season games were held around the world during the first decade of the 2000s (included in this group were the Sixers’ trips to Cologne, Germany and Monterrey, Mexico in 2006 and 2009, respectively), the NBA put regular season international competition on pause from 2004 through 2010.

In 2011, in-season play overseas was revived, and two years later, the league formally rolled out its current ‘Global Games’ initiative, under which the yearly London Game falls. During this period, O2 Arena, where the Sixers and Celtics will meet this winter, has hosted seven regular season outings, making it the league’s most-frequently utilized international venue.

Thursday, in a statement issued by the NBA, Commissioner Adam Silver called London a place “where our events have become an annual opportunity for basketball fans across Europe to come together and share their passion for the NBA.”

Earlier in his career, Sixers’ CEO Scott O’Neil worked at the league office for eight years. He believes the NBA is the “most global sports property” on the planet.

“We look forward to introducing the world to the 76ers next generation of transformational stars,” said O’Neil. “With the support of our international fans and our family of dynamic sports and entertainment brands awaiting our arrival, we anticipate a very welcoming experience.”

The Sixers last travelled to Europe in October 2013 for exhibition games against Bilbao Basket in Spain, and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Manchester, England.

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