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Adam Silver and Emmanuel Macron talk about goals for the growth of basketball in France

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PARIS — NBA commissioner Adam Silver had a meeting this week in Paris and was asked by a gracious host how he drinks his coffee.

Un sucre?’ asked French President Emmanuel Macron.

Over that coffee, the leader of the NBA and the leader of France struck a deal to work together in hopes of continuing to grow the game of basketball internationally – a perfect marriage considering that French superstar Victor Wembanyama is just months away from reaching the NBA and the Paris Olympics are about 18 months away.

The NBA announced some details on Thursday, including a collaboration between the league and the LNB, which is France’s top professional league; events where France and the NBA will work together as part of the build-up to Paris 2024; expanded youth programs; and additional work towards growing the game in Africa, with the league and France committing to further investment there, including facilities capable of hosting Basketball Africa League games.

“His belief, I think, is very similar 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 between people,” said Silver.

Macron, Silver said, had his schedule lined up 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 is very familiar with all of our global plans, particularly in Africa,” said Silver.

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

Basketball was probably just 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. “This reflects the special and enduring relationship that France has with the NBA. With the excellence of our coaching, the performance of our national teams and the staging of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we now have the opportunity to go further and become 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 planning another game in Paris next year, Silver said; he spoke on Thursday just before a Chicago Bulls-Detroit Pistons game, with Wembanyama and his family sitting on the court.

Silver and Macron also discussed plans for Paris 2024, including how the current schedule calls for preliminary games in Lille – around 140 miles north of Paris. This decision is not final and has been the subject of some criticism due to the high status that basketball has on the Olympic program.

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

Other topics covered by Silver on Thursday included:

WORK

Although Silver and National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio were in Paris this week, talks between the league and the union continued in New York.

“Our colleagues are back in New York, negotiating as we speak,” said Silver. “They’ve been meeting all week, discussing issue by issue and trying to resolve the issues that divide us. I would say, though, that I think we started off with a very strong foundation.”

The NBA and its players have until Feb. 8 if either side wants to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement. That deadline has already been pushed back once since mid-December, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if it were pushed back again.

“There’s a strong sense of partnership between the players and the league,” said Silver. “That doesn’t mean we don’t have disagreements.”

Among the issues the NBA and NBPA have been discussing in recent weeks is the return of allowing players to enter the draft as early as high school without waiting a year – that change is expected to be included in the next CBA – along with what the league is considering a “maximum spending cap” that would significantly tighten the rules on how much teams can spend each year on their roster.

LEBRON RECORD

With LeBron James now perhaps just weeks away from catching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and becoming the NBA’s career scoring leader, Silver revealed some of the notions the league is considering to honor the achievement.

“There’s no doubt that we’re going to stop this game and make sure we go down in history, the ball, the basket, the uniform,” said Silver. “Let’s stop and make sure we’ve done our job as archivists of the NBA. At the same time, there’s the balance that they’re going to be playing against a team that really wants to win that night and not be distracted. We’ll probably do something in the moment, but later we’ll plan a celebration.” bigger.”

James is on track to break the record in early February – and if he does, chances are the biggest celebration Silver spoke of will come at the NBA’s All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City later that month.

RETURN TO NORMALITY

The last time the NBA played in Paris before Thursday was in January 2020 – just under two months before the league was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I actually remember when we were here, that January of 2020, we started seeing people wearing masks. People knew something was coming,” Silver said. “Nobody was predicting at that time that the world would shut down and that we would play in a bubble, etc. Our hope is, of course, that we have ended this pandemic, and the worst is behind us. We hope so.”

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