The NBL has a responsibility to grow the game across Asia

The NBL has a responsibility to grow the game across Asia

No matter what the NBL does there are still plenty of people who speak negatively about the league. Whether it’s about the imports, the music, or the uniforms, if you look around on social media, comments about the NBL not being as good as it was in the roaring 90’s are there.


That’s the power of the internet, everyone is able to share their opinion and it’s great that those people have an opinion; they’re allowed to… it’s just a shame that they are wrong


Over 665,000 people attended NBL games throughout the 16/17 regular season, a number which shatters the all time record for highest per game average attendance over the course of a season.


110,000 fans downloaded the NBL app. Melbourne, Sydney and Perth all saw multiple games sold out before the end of the season and TV broadcast numbers are up 20% on last season. So what will the NBL do for its encore?


Whether it’s The Godfather, The Dark Knight or The Lord of the Rings all great stories are part of a trilogy and when Larry Kestelman purchased a 51% stake in the NBL for three years he set Australian basketball up for a trilogy of its own.


You could say season chapter one (2015/16) was how to win back the sponsors; 2016/17 (chapter two) was how to win back the fans and it seems chapter three (2017/18) will be focused on winning over casual basketball fans.


But what constitutes a casual basketball fan? According to the brains trust of Aussie Hoopla, the casual basketball fan fits at least one of the following three criteria:


1) Australian NBA fans who don’t follow the NBL

2) Australian fans who support other sports codes instead of the NBL

3) Asian basketball fans


It’s painless to see that third option is where the easiest growth for the league can be sourced.


The NBL has already made inroads in Asia after striking up a deal last year with internet platforms Ali Sports and Sina Sports, where 6 million fans across Asia viewed NBL games without any marketing from the NBL.


When Jeremy Loeliger joined us on the Aussie Hoopla podcast he confirmed any changes the NBL makes for the future will have to be made with the Asian fan base in mind.


I can tell you we spend a lot of our time thinking about how to wow the socks off those in Asia.

a big part of this season will be looking at how we make our product more relevant to Chinese and philippine audiences.


Growth in the Asia region has to be the direction of the NBL next season because as crazy as that sounds, the NBL might be nearing the limit of where it can grow locally.


In a report by Basketball Australia in 2014 there were 625,000 registered basketball players over the age of 15 in Australia. Obviously many people attended multiple NBL games last season but seeing the numbers of NBL attendance resemble the same amount of people playing the game is impressive. Equally impressive is more than 1 in 6 basketball players in Australia use the NBL app.


These kinds of numbers seemed impossible when Larry Kestelman first took over. When Kestelman purchased the NBL, three of the league’s 8 teams (Townsville, Illawarra and Adelaide) were close to becoming extinct. Out of those three, only Townsville fell on its sword.


The season prior saw the deciding game 2 of a Perth/New Zealand Final series was viewed by only 33,000 people on free-to-air, with only 11,000 being viewers outside Perth.


With the NBL Finals coming to an end in two weeks it’s certainly a time for pats on the back and kudos to what the league has achieved, but you don’t continue to grow without setting lofty goals.


Hopefully, in 2018 we’d love to see a team from China and a team from the Philippines in the competition, I think that would be a great outcome for basketball not just here in Australia but all across Asia” said Loeliger.


With changes in FIBA rulings, Australia is now a part of the FIBA Asia region and will compete with China, Philippines, Iran and Japan on all levels of basketball competition, including the FIBA Asia Cup, which Australia and New Zealand will contest for the first time later this year.


Combining the economics of the NBL, Basketball Australia’s efforts in junior player development, money spent by Australian’s on NBA jersey’s, merchandise and Australia boasting the highest amount of subscribers in the world to the NBA’s International League Pass it’s clear Australia sits at the top of Asia’s basketball region.


We are the strongest player from a basketball perspective in this region and we have a very significant leadership role to play there in terms of helping those other countries improve the quality of their product


What happens after the third and final year of Kestelman’s agreement with the NBL is uncertain but the final chapter of this contract is set to see the NBL go directions it never has before, with the Kestelman family proudly at the helm.


Dan BoyceAuthor: Dan Boyce (348 Posts)

Dan Boyce is a die-hard Sydney Kings fan who grew up in Melbourne during the roaring 90’s of Australian Basketball and spent far too much time collecting Futera NBL Basketball cards