SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia’s “sleeping giant” National Basketball League launches its 40th season next month with ambitious plans of supplanting cricket as the sports-mad country’s number one summer game.
NBL owner Larry Kestelman, who is looking to cash in on the record number of Australians starring in the NBA, said there had never been a better time for the sport.
“The sleeping giant of Australian sport is awake and we are coming. We want to be Australia’s number one summer sport and one of the biggest sports in the country,” he said at the season launch on Monday.
Kestelman said the recent announcement that three NBL teams – Sydney Kings, Melbourne United and Brisbane Bullets – would play in next month’s NBA pre-season showed the Australian league was considered one of the best in the world.
Sydney will play Utah Jazz on October 2, Melbourne play Oklahoma City Thunder six days later and Brisbane take on Phoenix Suns on October 13 to coincide with the start of the NBL season.
“There are about one million Australians playing the sport, we have a record number of Australians playing in the NBA and strong national teams in the Boomers men’s and the Opals women’s,” he said.
Among Australians starring in the NBA are Aron Baynes (Boston Celtics), Matt Dellavedova (Milwaukee Bucks), Dante Exum (Utah Jazz), Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz), Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs) and Ben Simmons (Philadelphia Sixers).