• Sports

From the Monegasque Rock to the NBA mountain

19 April 2019 - 16h27

Before joining the London offices of the famous National Basketball Association in 2008, where he is currently in charge of distributing programmes for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Nicolas Bermond had long cultivated his passion for the American league with VHS tapes and posters in his native Principality.

“When the Dream Team came to Monaco to prepare for the Barcelona Olympic Games, it was fantastic. I remember seeing Magic Johnson at Le Larvotto and following him to the Port with other children without speaking to him”. Twenty-seven years later, Nicolas Bermond has forgotten nothing about this wind from America that blew through his Principality in the summer of 1992. The NBA’s top players, who were representing Team USA for the first time, played a friendly game against France on 21st July in a Salle Gaston-Médecin that was taken by storm. A basketball fan, he was in the stands along with over 2,000 enthusiasts and onlookers. At the age of nine, he found himself face to face with the players who decorated his bedroom walls: “This game marked the beginning of the fashion for the NBA. At the end of the holidays, girls wearing had Charlotte Hornets* pencil cases without knowing what basketball was, and people were buying and consuming the NBA”. Nicolas Bermond did not wait for this event before becoming interested in basketball in general and the American league in particular. A member of AS Monaco Basket from the age of six, he pursued his passion by going to performances by Robert Smith**, while daydreaming in front of VHS tapes and other rebroadcasts of games played on the other side of the Atlantic. At the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, Canal+ broadcast a recorded game every week. Only the finals were broadcast live. Late at night, therefore, with inevitable jet lag. “I tried to get up quietly at night and not to have too big bags under my eyes the morning after, even if it didn’t make my parents too happy”, he recalls with a laugh. “It was a bit hard to follow the NBA, but like every passion, I wanted to live it to the full”.

“My eyes still shine”

The cassettes he exchanged with his friends were less hard on his sleep, and they had another benefit: the English commentaries accustomed his ears to the language of Shakespeare. This proved useful when he went to Liverpool and then London as part of his Nice-based business school’s Erasmus programme, after finishing all his schooling in the Principality. “When I finished my studies, I only wanted to do one thing, which was to return to England and pursue my adventure”, he tells us by telephone from his office near Covent Garden, because even though “his heart is red and white”, Nicolas Bermond has never left the English capital, where he has been living a waking dream since 2008 thanks to a stroke of good fortune: “A year and a half after I arrived, I discovered that the NBA offices were moving from Paris to London. I applied immediately, and a number of fixed-term contracts followed. I’ve been working for the NBA for ten years”. He knows he was lucky to be able to combine his job and his passion, despite the rapid pace his position imposes. “When I go to a venue or talk to players, my eyes still shine and my heart still beats fast”, he says, sharing a number of anecdotes with us, like the time when after a game in Barcelona nine years ago, he found himself in a club in the VIP area reserved for the players between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The security guard, confused by his 2.07 metre height, mistook him for a player! Equally, every time he steps on to the parquet at Madison Square Garden, the lair of his favourite team, New York Knicks, Nicolas Bermond cannot but think of his first time in this mythical place – with his parents in 1999.

A fan at the service of fans

Now working in the media department in an office responsible for programmes in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, he manages the eight largest European markets, including France. He deals with the problems encountered by European fans, and with his office, he puts initiatives in place to develop the NBA brand. Broadcasts in cinemas in collaboration with TrashTalk, developments across all digital media, scheduling European prime-time weekend meetings. One game is also moved to Europe every year! On 28th March, therefore, Nicolas Bermond was at the beINsport offices in Paris to announce excellent news for French fans: a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Charlotte Hornets at the AccorHotel Arena on 24th January 2020. This is a topic he had touched on during our telephone interview a few days earlier, when he also revealed one of his wishes: “With the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, why not get Team USA to come to Monaco, like in 1992? I would love to organize it in the Principality!”

Jérémie Bernigole

© DR

* NBA franchise

** An American playmaker with 229 games in the NBA, who played in Monaco from 1985 to 1989.

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