Britain’s first NBA champion, O.G. Anunoby, has agreed to become part owner of the London Lions.
The Lions, who sealed another BBL title, with a record six games to spare earlier this month have also made history becoming the first British side to qualify for the EuroCup playoffs.
Toronto Raptors wing Anunoby, who won the NBA title in 2019, was born in London before moving to Missouri in the U.S. at the age of four.
Already one of Britain’s best basketball exports, the 25-year-old said: “It’s great to see everything that is going on in British basketball right now which is why I am really excited to join the London Lions.
“I just want to do my part as a role model to all the young hoopers in London and across the entire UK.”
Anunoby has bought a minority stake to part own the club alongside majority stakeholders 777 Partners.
With a record attendance of a capacity 18,000 crowd at the O2 Arena set at last year’s BBL Trophy final between the Lions and Leicester Riders, British basketball looks in better shape than ever before.
The sport continues to grow despite a lack of government investment. Figures from UK Sport indicate that basketball will receive less funding in 2021-25 than archery, fencing, skateboarding and surfing amongst other Olympic sports.
The UK was also the only nation involved in last summer’s EuroBasket, held in Germany, that did not televise any games at the tournament.
Managing director of 777, Juan Arciniegas, said: “It blows our mind basketball isn’t bigger in London, and we know the reasons why,
“We’re trying to attack those reasons to make it where we believe it should be.”
Image Credit: Sport England – this graph shows participation in basketball plotted against a variety of other popular sports in the UK in a given year
In 2020-21, Sport England data indicates that more people played basketball in the last year than Cricket, Rugby Union or Rugby League, but the funding disparity between the sports continues to be vast.
The hope is that, in partnership with 777, Anunoby’s investment will encourage further outside investment into the British basketball scene, allowing UK sides to eventually compete with much more established clubs on the continental stage.