Yesterday at London’s Copper Box Arena I saw my first ever British professional basketball match. In a hard fought game following a respectfully observed silence for Remembrance Sunday, London Lions narrowly lost to Newcastle Eagles by 88 to 81. The atmosphere was pleasant and the pace of play fast and exciting, with a personal highlight being a London Lions three-quarter-court shot at the close of the first half, causing the entire crowd to erupt with excitement – despite coming slightly after the clock had run out and therefore not affecting the score line.
The entire experience was pleasurable, from strolling through the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park through the throng of rugby league fans who’d descended upon the park’s London Stadium to see England’s rugby league Four Nations loss to Australia, to catching up with some old university friends from my time as an undergraduate at the game. And to top it all off entrance was cheap, for a professional sports game in London, anyway.
In an unexpected turn of events, Alesha Dixon (of “The Boy Does Nothing”, Strictly Come Dancing, and Britain’s Got Talent fame) took to the court during half time and challenged the crowd to step up and show off a talent. A young man, encouraged by the friend sitting next to him, took to the court in tap shoes and entertained the crowd for a few minutes before being stunned speechless by the grand reveal that this half time show had not in fact been arranged by the British Basketball League, but was instead being filmed for a new hidden camera talent show. Next, a video appeared on the big screens at either end of the arena showing a pair of choreographers known as Rich and Tone who, after boasting of their history of A-list clients and collaborators (including the King of Pop himself and Madonna amongst a myriad of other popular musicians and directors), told the boy he would soon be flying out to Hollywood for the next stage of the show’s competition. Exciting stuff!