Detroit legend Bill Laimbeer hopes the NBA clash in London will fuel a passion for basketball in UK schools
Detroit legend Bill Laimbeer hopes London's NBA clash will fuel a passion for basketball in UK schools.
By Oli Burley - @SkySportsOli
Last Updated: 16/01/13 5:16pm
Laimbeer, who played centre for the Pistons from 1982-1993, oversaw two NBA Elite Clinic sessions for young people as part of the build-up to Detroit's clash with the New York Knicks, on Sky Sports 1 HD from 7.30pm.
Pupils from Lampton School, participants in the Sky Sports Living for Sport initiative run in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, took part in the sessions at Sky Studios where Laimbeer put the youngsters through a series of defensive and attacking drills - exercises he hopes will soon be replicated across the UK.
"Basketball is a global sport because it doesn't cost any money to play - all you need are a pair of shoes and a ball," he said.
"England seems like a perfect place for the game to thrive, so if we can expose more kids to it by getting the NBA over here to meet the players and teach them the right way to do it, then it should grow.
"There's a culture that has to be cultivated. Here, kids all play football - as you call it - or cricket and rugby, because that's what they know. It's not like the United States where everybody grows up playing basketball. But as basketball grows and becomes more popular, athletes will start to migrate to it.
"There's a lot of money in professional basketball, but more importantly than that, in the United States you can get scholarships and free education, if you're good enough, which is a great thing.
"Anyone can play basketball - it's great exercise - but what level of basketball you play to comes down to how well you were coached and your talent.
"Some kids aren't fast; they can't get up and down a football field as well as everybody else and they get washed out. In rugby, some aren't as strong as others. But in basketball they might have jumping or shooting skills - an ability that doesn't fit the normal culture of the sport here. They can find a home, get involved and be successful.
"The NBA is trying to grow a culture and a coaching environment that will be able to teach the kids how to play the game the right way."
Detroit sit second bottom of the Eastern Conference, central division going into Thursday's match with the Knick at London's O2 Arena, after losing 90-87 to the Utah Jazz at the weekend and Laimbeer told Sky Sports News that his former side will have to step up if they are to return back to America with a victory.
"I think they are struggling a little bit," he admitted. "They are a young team trying to find their way right now. They are in the lower half of the standings but they are very competitive; they've lost a lot of close games and I expect a very competitive game on Thursday."
New York head coach Mike Woodson said that the game represents an excellent opportunity for his team to grow as well as give British fans the chance to experience basketball at the highest level.
"It gives us an opportunity to branch out and spend some time in another country with our family and friends and play basketball," he said. "The flipside of that is that it gives English fans an opportunity to see basketball played at its highest level.
"I think that's what it's all about at the end of the day because the league is trying to grow their product and they've done a hell of a job over the years doing that."
To find out more about Sky Sports Living for Sport, a free initiative for secondary schools run in conjunction with the Youth Sport Trust, visit the website by clicking here.
The Detroit Pistons against the New York Knicks will be the first NBA game played in the UK to be shown live in Sky Sports 1 HD and 3D, and will also be available live on mobile, online and tablet devices via Sky Go.
NBA coverage on Sky Sports continues with live Sunday night games for the rest of the regular season, including double-headers most weekends, followed by live NBA Playoff games, the entire Eastern Conference Finals, and every game of the NBA Finals in June.
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