American investors ‘777’ buy mass shares of the British Basketball League with plans to own more. One year down the line, has this benefited the UK Basketball scene?
Investment firm 777 partners purchased UK club the London Lions in 2020 after initially planning to invest in Basketball solely within the London area.
Anticipating the NBA’s growth in Europe, this investment would be the starting point for a much larger project as the investors would go onto purchase 45% of the British league in 2021.
With the second highest participation rate within team sports in the UK, Basketball has seen a spike in popularity among the younger communities.
Can the BBL rival the NBA in years to come?
“When the NBA came over to the UK for the first time in 1992, back then Basketball was really big and the NBA brought Shaquille O’Neal over to play at the Wembley arena”, said accredited NBA and BBL photographer Mansoor Ahmed.
“I did not think the British public would be that interested but I was very very wrong, it was a sold out show with a jam packed arena.
Despite the NBA and it’s stars showing love to the UK scene over the years, the UK lacks the exposure the NBA thrives off.
“We are far behind, we don’t have the infrastructure, we don’t have the media exposure.
“The investments have been perceived in two ways, quite a mixed bag. It hurts the British players as they aren’t seeing much of that money coming their way.
“The players have not received an increased wage after this deal and ultimately they will go to Europe to chase more money as the UK can’t offer good money.”
Many followers of the sport assumed the investment would greatly benefit those clubs and players that struggle at the other end of the table but this hasn’t been the case much to their disappointment.
With Leicester and Bristol among others gearing up to play in brand new state of the art venues next season, other clubs hope that they will get this same chance.
Sam Neter, founder of the UK’s largest Basketball media platform ‘Hoopsfix’ had this to say about the investment:
“I think most people would say Basketball is bigger than it’s ever been in the UK right now, I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that”, he said.
“I think there is more visibility thanks to the internet, but we still have a number of fundamental issues with availability of clubs, access to courts and coaching numbers.
“This investment came just over a year ago and we are still yet to see a lot of the benefits from that, realistically we need the same investment the London Lions have had in each team within the league to attempt to stand alongside the NBA when that time comes.
Launched in January 2010, ‘Hoopsfix’ became the number one authority for online British Basketball. Working alongside Basketball’s biggest names such as the NBA, Nike and Jordan.
The ‘Hoopsfix’ foundation was created in 2015 in order to raise and grow the profile of Basketball in the UK
The company also hosts an All-Star Classic event like the NBA’s All-Star weekend. The ultimate showcase of British basketball talent and culture.
Lebron James’ son Bronny James competed in the event last year but fell short to the British all-stars, losing the game 81-74 Infront of a sold out show in London.
The UK has produced a strong history of Basketball talent, most recently Jeremy Sochan. Residing in Milton Keynes, the 19-year-old is taking the NBA by storm, finishing ninth overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft.
The opportunities are there for British players to showcase their talent globally as we have seen in recent years, it’s about trying to make the BBL appealing enough to persuade them to stay.
Holding onto talent has been the biggest task UK clubs have had to face as once they make the move to America or Europe, the likelihood of that player returning is very low.
Due to the lack of money UK clubs make other Basketball powehouses simply offer more money to their players. Investments will allow for new venues to be built.
“It’s very hard for any club to make any money and move away from that volunteer economy when they don’t own their own venue”, said Neter.
Sport needs strong leadership, ultimately it starts at the top and the federation needs to be much stronger from that standpoint if anything is going to change and unfortunately that has been detrimental to the sport over the years.”