Silver, Macron meet to discuss goals with NBA back in Paris

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had a meeting this week in Paris and was asked by a gracious host how he takes his coffee.

“Un sucre?” French President Emmanuel Macron asked.

Over that coffee, the leader of the NBA and the leader of France struck a deal to work together with hopes of continuing to grow the game of basketball internationally — a marriage of perfect timing, given how French star Victor Wembanyama is a few months from coming to the NBA and the Paris Olympics are about 18 months away.

The NBA announced some details Thursday, including a collaboration between the league and the LNB, which is France’s top pro league; events that France and the NBA will work on together as part of the buildup toward Paris 2024; expanded youth programs; and additional work toward growing the game in Africa, with both the league and France committing to further investments there, including facilities capable of playing host to Basketball Africa League games.

“His belief, I think, is very similar certainly to the NBA’s about the power of sport to bring people together and what a constructive force it can be and even as a global engine to create commonality and empathy among people,” Silver said.

Macron, Silver said, happened to have his schedule align with a BAL game during a visit to Rwanda in the league’s inaugural playoffs. Macron watched the game with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

“He’s very familiar with all our global plans, in Africa particularly,” Silver said.

Macron had other pressing matters on his schedule this week. At least 1.1 million people protested on the streets of Paris and other French cities Thursday amid nationwide strikes against plans to raise the retirement age, but Macron — who met with Silver on Wednesday in Paris, and was at a French-Spanish summit in Barcelona on Thursday — has said he will press ahead with the proposed pension reforms.

Basketball was likely only a brief distraction.

“I am delighted and proud of the NBA’s choice to make France and Paris one of its privileged playgrounds in the world,” Macron said. “It reflects the special and long-standing relationship that France has with the NBA. With the excellence of our training, the performance of our national teams and the hosting of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic games, we now have the opportunity to go further and engage in a useful and lasting partnership for the benefit of French basketball, as well as in support of our development policy in Africa.”

The NBA is in the process of planning another game in Paris next year, Silver said; he spoke Thursday just before a game between the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, with Wembanyama and his family sitting courtside.

Silver and Macron also discussed plans for Paris 2024, including how the current schedule calls for preliminary games in Lille — about 140 miles north of Paris. That decision is not final, and has been the subject of some criticism given the high-profile status basketball has on the Olympic program.

“He assured us everything would be OK,” Silver said.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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