How the London Lions are changing British basketball’s reputation in Europe


t started with the simple desire of two Americans to watch a basketball game in London and has ended in an unlikely run in Europe this season.

English sides have traditionally been the whipping boys of basketball on the continent, but this year the London Lions are the first British team to qualify from the initial group stages of European competition.

They’re unbeaten in the Fiba Europe Cup and take on Turkish side Bahcesehir Koleji on Wednesday in the second group stage.

American firm 777 Partners invested in the club back in 2020, initially partly down to the frustrations of vice-presidents Adam Weiss and Lenz Balan.

“We got to London a bunch for work and wanted to watch basketball,” recalls Weiss. “We literally googled ‘is there basketball in the UK, is there a team in London?’”

It transpired it was the off-season but they decided to feed their curiosity by meeting with the London Lions and, as Weiss put it, “ended up acquiring the team”.

It is part of an ever-expanding portfolio, which includes recently buying Serie A side Genoa and having a stake in LaLiga’s Sevilla, as well as pursuing the ambition with other partners of bringing a Formula 1 grand prix to Docklands in London.

It is a far cry from its early days when the club was bought by Vince Macaulay, still their head coach, for just £1,500 back in 1998. Rebranded the London Lions in 2011, it has been an occasionally painful foray into basketball for the former player, whose own playing days began in unusual circumstances.

“I was living in Toxteth in the late 70s and literally climbing out of the window at school to do a bunk when someone grabbed me to make the school basketball team have enough players,” he recalls. He was spotted there and eventually made his way to the Brixton Topcats.

One of the team’s arrivals from the United States has been Marquis Teague

/ London Lions

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