That’s right; I said it. Australian basketball is going to bigger and better than all of those years in the 90s when Andrew Gaze was leading the pack and everyone wore a Michael Jordan jersey.
The NBL was in the same breath as the AFL and soon, it will be again. So if you want to jump on the bandwagon before it gets too crowded, here are some reasons to sign up.
Let’s start with the young’uns and talk about hitting the genetic jackpot. Ben Simmons is not only 6’10” and 240lbs, but can run like a gazelle and use his offhand better than you can use your dominant hand.
The thing that separates him from the rest of the draft pack is his insane feel for the game as it seems he’s playing against children most times. He will no doubt be the number one pick in this year’s draft, become a superstar and be the poster boy for Australian basketball. No doubt at all. When Andrew Bogut was drafted number one all the way back in 2005, there was a big leap in interest. That didn’t work out as well as he would have hoped because of his freak injury, but if Bogut can increase interest then Simmons might go even further.
The other young up and comer that is very important to the future of Australian basketball is Thon Maker. I honestly believe that the more success Thon Maker has in his career, the more interest there will be in Australian basketball. For those of you know don’t know who Maker is (for shame BTW), he was born in Sudan (now South Sudan) and migrated to Australia when he was five. He’s now in high school in Canada and a bonafide five-star recruit from most recruiting websites. With so many migrants here and still coming over, seeing one of their own become a superstar in the best league in the world (hopefully) will bring in mountains of new players to the sport.
Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Aron Baynes, Cam Bairstow, Joe Ingles. They are the guys who are playing in the NBA and representing your country. And boy are they doing a great job of it.
Bogut and Delly are ripping it up for the Warriors and Cavs respectively while Exum unfortunately went down with a season ending injury but all signs point to a fantastic career ahead of him. The other three aren’t getting as many minutes but are still giving their all when they can. More and more young kids are seeing that Australians are making it into the NBA which will give them that they can make it too.
The reason I bring up all of these fantastic Australian athletes is that I believe that it is the perfect year to really make a splash in the international scene. That’s right, it’s an Olympic year! Add to the guys mentioned above the likes of Brock Motum, Ryan Broekhoff and Brad Newley who are playing overseas I really think that we can snag a medal. Sure, we’re most likely not going to beat the US or Spain but after that, who knows?
We may only be ranked eleventh in the world at the moment but in the high pressure Olympics games anything can happen. And if we can snatch that bronze medal then our international profile will go through the roof.
That’s all well and good for Australian basketball overseas, but how will that translate to here in Oz? Don’t worry, that’s on the way up as well.
Five years ago, who would have thought that this year we would have Josh Childress, Al Harrington and Hakim Warwick playing in the league? It’s bonkers! Imports should be the best player on the team, they’re getting paid to be as much but for a while the talent just wasn’t there. This year we’ve got guys like Jermaine Beal and Jerome “Antman” Rundle lighting it up for 40 points while Charles and Cedric Jackson torching all comers in New Zealand. The talent is here and it’s delicious and hopefully more and more ex-NBA players see that this is a quality league to play in. And it’s a pretty damn good county to live in as well.
To make things even better, Brisbane is coming back to the NBL! Even though Cairns and Townsville are doing a fantastic job of representing the QLD, having the third largest city in Australia with a team would be such a big deal. Coming back with a new logo and a real focus on hitting the ground running with the appointment of CJ Bruton as Basketball Operations Manager (and assistant coach) it seems that the league and the people running the Brisbane team want to be competitive as soon as possible. And I say, bring it on! Also bring on a second Melbourne team please.
Speaking of Melbourne, have you seen those crowd numbers for the United games? Insane! They’re selling out the 10,000 seat Hisense Arena. It’s so good to see people walking down the streets of Melbourne with black and white United hats on, and seeing all of those kids with jerseys on at the game is exciting. It’s becoming a hot ticket with games being sold out a week in advance in some instances. A winning team brings a winning culture so if the Kings could get their act together we would be seeing the same effect up there. Sydney is the home of the bandwagon fans.
Joining forces with Fox Sports has been a godsend. I don’t know about other cities but here in Melbourne there is heaps of billboards and advertising for the NBL on Fox Sports. “Every night from Wednesday to Sunday live on Fox Sports” they say. Because of this, I’ve had so many people come up to me that aren’t really basketball fans tell me that they saw a bit of the game last night and it was fun to watch. Compare that to when there were only two games a week, a delayed game at 9:30pm on a Friday night and a live one on Sunday afternoon. There more basketball is saturated into the media the more people will start talking about it. Easy.
This may be a sooky way to end the piece but it’s the fans that will propel Australia basketball further than ever before. So please, get out there and support your team. Start playing basketball if you’re not doing so already. If you don’t want to play, help out your local club. Buy NBL merchandise and support your team like crazy. There’s a golden age coming and I want each and every one of you to get on at the ground floor. Or as I said before, the bandwagon is about to get awfully full so jump on now!