My Experience with the NBL MVP Awards – Part One

My Experience with the NBL MVP Awards – Part One

As a gift from the basketballing gods or just a lucky break at the right time, I was invited by Aussie Hoopla, and the NBL to not only the MVP awards night but also to a get together with the playoff-bound teams on Larry Kestleman’s private yacht, Vegas.  It was an incredible opportunity to see some of the players outside of the basketball court and talk to the biggest names of the NBL, including Mr. Kestleman himself.  So, under the guise of being Aussie Hoopla’s photographer, here is a rundown of my experience of the night.


Part one will be a run down about my time on Larry Kestleman’s yacht, Vegas.


  • Nervous me got there way too early, so I had a walk around Docklands. More people should visit Docklands.

Except the Melbourne Eye

  • I met a professional photographer, very nice guy. In my possession was a camera and a lens; he had an entire carry-on suitcase full of photography equipment.  I may be out of my depth here.
  • Found Dan looking very suave in his suit. We’re going on a boat with celebrities to eat and drink free stuff, so you could say that there’s a certain James Bond feel to the occasion.
  • OH. MY. GOD. This yacht is beyond ridiculous. Larry Kestleman owns it, and it just goes to show how rich this guy is. Speaking of James Bond, I’m almost certain that this boat has been a Bond villain’s lair at some point.

I’ve been waiting for you Mr. Bond

  • We board the yacht and are told to take our shoes off.   It takes us a while to walk around and gawk at it all.  We’re also told that we’re the first ones here so it’s stand in the corner awkwardly time.
  • The first to arrive is Managing Director of the Perth Wildcats, Nick Marvin. He told us that all the Perth players had gone back to WA because they have a day spare.  Must suck going from Melbourne to Perth to Cairns in the space of a couple of days.
  • Marvin says he aged quite a few years after just squeaking into the playoffs with the two point over Melbourne in the last game of the regular season.
  • And there is the NBL’s Chief Operating Officer Andy Crook. He’s looking very smart in a black bow tie.

(L) Andy Crook; (C) Nick Marvin; (R) Dan Boyce

  • He goes over the NBL’s strategy about the media progression and the attendance/viewer numbers. Very impressive.
  • It was surprising to hear that over-saturating the online viewers with snippets and highlights of games is detrimental to subscription numbers. If people can just watch the dunks and exciting plays, they will be less likely to spend money to watch full games.
  • He’s thinking of putting up more ‘magazine’ shows, like attaching people to the NBA Summer League and expanding the NBL combine. I tell him that we at Aussie Hoopla would very gladly run a show with the backing of the league.  He gives me a very non-committal answer.
  • It’s fantastic hearing the business side of the NBL as I’ve pretty much only looked at the product on the court.
  • Here comes Larry Kestleman, the executive director of the NBL and apparently, the next Bond villain as the owner of the boat. He’s very accommodating to me which is surprising for a super-rich, super talented person like Larry to be so nice to someone he had never seen before and only vaguely knows of my second-hand connections.  Paints a picture of how great of a person he is (I’m not sucking up here, he’s genuinely a quality human being).

Very important conversation with very important people

  • Everyone must take their shoes off to go on the boat, and Kestleman tells me a story of a serious businessman who accidently took his socks off as well, revealing some nicely painted toenails. Awkward.
  • Up next is Jeremy Loeliger, the NBL General Manager with a massive smile on his face. Not sure if he’s happy the regular season is finished or just glad to be here.  Either way, everyone else returns the smile, and he starts talking to whoever he can find.
  • Rob Beveridge, AJ Ogilvy and Rotnei Clarke from Illawarra are next to arrive, and AJ must duck considerably under the roof. Must be hard living like that.

Everyone loves boat jokes

  • Bevo is one of the most down to earth, easy to get along with men I have ever met. He talked about how proud he was that his son was taking a year off to work before uni.  There was a story about how he went to Japan and helped clean up the Japanese basketball culture.  He knows his stuff, and I could listen to him talk all day.
  • Next up is the Adelaide guys and the biggest group yet with Joey Wright, Jerome Randle, Daniel Johnson, Mitch Creek, Anthony Drmic and Nathan Sobey. Sobey has the best socks on the boat with some brightly coloured striped foot holders.  A lot of people comment on them under their breath.  It’s funny to see the glances down to his feet from everyone.
  • The players’ partners are here as well and are all dolled up. They’re not straying too far from their boy.

That’s even with his shoes off

  • More on that, it didn’t seem that the players were jubilant to be on the boat, with all of them up on the top level either sitting on their phones or just waiting around. Unlike myself who is having a mini stroke with all of these superstar basketballers mere metres away from me.  Tried to make small talk and got a multitude of cold shoulders at the same time.  Back downstairs for me then.
  • I don’t blame them, after a heavy grind of a season and then having to put on their best photo faces that evening, I would probably be wanting some time away from chumps like yours truly.
  • Speaking of, a lot of the players aren’t as tall as I thought. The obvious one was Jerome Randle who was tiny, but guys like Rotnei Clarke and Nathan Sobey are shorter than I am (I’m 6’4”).  AJ Ogilvy is enormous, though, and you could use him as an outboard motor on a boat with the flippers he calls feet.

Nice socks Sobey

  • Cairns were a no-show, however, probably caught wind of a weird photographer doing the rounds.
  • Listening to Joey Wright and Rob Beveridge bounce off each other was magical. They talked about the young kids coming up the ranks (apparently, Isaac White from South Australia is a name to remember), comparing war stories about run-ins with umpires and telling me that being hung up on ‘starting’ for a team is just an ego trip.  They didn’t even know me, and they felt comfortable enough to have free flowing conversations with me which was exciting.  Or it might have to do with the free alcohol.

Talking smack about the playoffs

  • Oh no, Joey saw my epi-pen and asked me about my allergies (I’m allergic to nuts). Don’t, don’t, don’t bring up how you vomited in front of everyone the first time you had nuts.  Don’t do it.
  • Well done, you told the coach of the Adelaide 36ers a story that ended in you vomiting. Awkward is not a strong enough word.
  • Luckily for me, they changed the subject, and I pretended to take photos of other people. Next time, don’t talk about yourself.
  • Next up were photos and I had to remind myself that I wasn’t just a fan and I had a job to do. I’m not the best photographer, but if I take enough photos, then I should get a couple that is  Quantity over quality for me.

Everyone smile for the camera!

  • Not the best pictures from me of the players and their partners but I’m sure the professional photographer got some good ones.
  • After that, it’s time for the main event.  Everyone exits the boat (reluctantly) and off to the awards show.


My experience on Vegas is one that I will recall for many years to come but my night was just starting.  Look for part two where I tell my tale of the NBL MVP award night.

Author: Kyle Abbott (84 Posts)

Kyle has barracked for the North Melbourne Giants, Victoria Titans, Victoria Giants and the South Dragons. He’s hoping the Melbourne United don’t fold like the rest of them