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NBA exhibition set for London
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

Last year it was the National Hockey League. This year it will be the National Basketball Association.

They may only be exhibition games, but London is becoming a regular stop for professional teams looking for the occasional out-of-town gig -- a gig guaranteed to be played before a packed house.

Think back to Sept. 20 last year.

The John Labatt Centre was the venue when the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals played a NHL exhibition game.

On Oct. 17, the JLC will be the site of yet another exhibition game. This will be an NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors.

Now, there's no guarantee either Vince Carter or Allen Iverson will be in the lineup. Who knows when the next meltdown will occur for either player. But should either play, it will be a good show.

OK, so it's difficult to get excited about exhibition play. The attraction is rarely the play but the personalities playing the game. When the Capitals and Flyers played last year, one can only believe that most people didn't go for the hockey but rather went to see the players, absorb the atmosphere and maybe get to see an NHL-style game they would not be able to get tickets for otherwise, either because of availability or affordability.

For a city that doesn't have major professional teams, one takes what one can get and pays for it.

The top-priced ticket for that exhibition game was $66.25, a price many felt was a little steep for an exhibition hockey game, albeit an NHL exhibition game.

It turns out it didn't make much difference. The game was sold out, merely enhancing the reputation London is developing -- or should we say the John Labatt Centre is developing -- of selling out major events.

The tip-off for the NBA game will be at 1 p.m. There will be an NBA Day in London block party in the JLC parking lot, beginning at 11 a.m. with autograph sessions, beer gardens and various basketball displays. It will be free and open to the public.

Tickets will go on sale this Saturday at noon at the JLC box office and all Ticketmaster locations. The event is being organized by Global Spectrum Facility Management, the company that operates the JLC. Comcast-Spectacor operates Global Spectrum and it owns the 76ers.

Which brings us to the ticket prices for this event. Courtside seats are $86.25, with the next highest-priced ticket at $66.25. The lowest-priced ticket in the building will be $36.25.

Not a cheap ticket -- anywhere. But for anyone who knows basketball, for anyone who has attended a professional basketball game and paid to see it, they'll recognize quickly this might be the only time courtside seats -- and seats close to the action -- fall into the affordable range (barely) for the average stiff.

It's only an exhibition game but basketball is a sport you appreciate more the closer you sit to the floor.

Basketball continues to gain in popularity in Canada. The level of coaching and play has gotten better as the participation numbers increases, and it has increased significantly.

If there is a major difference between basketball in Canada as opposed to the United States, it's size. There are far taller and bigger competitive level players in the U.S. than Canada.

That's why this exhibition game will wind up selling out just as the exhibition hockey game did. It's a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with the basketball athlete. Television doesn't do justice to the size and quickness of the elite basketball athlete.

Capacity for basketball at the JLC is about 8,700 and many of those seats will be well within range to get a real appreciation of the kind of magic these players can produce.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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