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London hosts first regular-season NBA game played in Europe

By Helen Chandler, CNN
  • New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors played at London's O2 Arena
  • It was the first regular-season NBA game to be held in Europe and more could follow
  • The Nets beat the Raptors in two close games played on Friday and Saturday
  • The O2 Arena venue will host the basketball competition at the London 2012 Olympics

(CNN) -- The first ever regular season NBA game was played in Europe this weekend, as the New Jersey Nets took on the Toronto Raptors at London's O2 Arena.

The British capital proved to be lucky for the Nets. The east coast team won both legs of the two-game tie -- they claimed the first 116-103 on Friday and the second 137-136 in triple overtime on Saturday.

Despite basketball not enjoying the same high-profile in Great Britain as it does across North America, fans packed the 18,600 capacity venue -- which played host to an exhibition between the L.A. Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves a year ago -- to watch the two highly competitive games.

In order to make sure anyone new to basketball understood what was going on, an announcer explained who the players, teams and coaches were and gave a commentary to explain the scoring to the crowd.

But aside from this, the game followed exactly the same format as any other NBA game would, with the points scored counting towards the Nets and the Raptors standings in the league this season.

There was also the same high energy half-time and time-out entertainment taking place on the court, with the two teams' mascots present to entertain the crowds.

And just like any big sporting event held in the United States, the event was attended by a host of celebrities. Football stars Didier Drogba and David Luiz of Chelsea were spotted courtside, as were Jack Wilshere, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Cesc Fabregas from English Premier League rivals Arsenal.

It was fantastic for London to experience two fantastic NBA games. Hopefully they want to see more
--New Jersey Nets' Brooke Lopez

Part of the reason for the games being played in London was to promote basketball in Britain ahead of the 2012 Olympics -- to ensure the sport attracts the same large crowds as it did at the previous Games in Beijing.

However, as part of the NBA's aim to expand across the globe, this might not be the last time we see games in the lucrative franchise decided on foreign soil.

NBA commissioner David Stern has hinted that more games could be held in London and elsewhere in Europe and Asia -- where demonstrations have also been held previously. He even said that there could be European based teams playing in the NBA in the future.

It certainly does not seem like the players would mind traveling to London again. Raptors and Italy star Andrea Bargnani said: "The crowd was unbelievable. It's great the Olympics are going to be here."

The Nets' Brooke Lopez added: "It was fantastic for the city of London to experience it and see two really fantastic NBA games. It gave them great exposure to the game of basketball and hopefully they want to see more."