Move over cricket and football, NBL boss Larry Kestelman believes that basketball can become the most popular summer sport in the country.
Over the past few seasons, the NBL has emerged as a leading option for many up-and-coming basketballers who are to develop their game before the NBA draft.
LaMelo Ball was the 2020 NBL Rookie of the Year after an impressive stint with the Illawarra Hawks, before he was selected third overall by Charlotte.
Ball has proven himself to be among the best talents in the NBA, having been included in the All-Star game last season.
Australian Josh Giddey was the NBL’s Rookie of the Year the following season, and later was picked sixth overall by Oklahoma City Thunder.
Watch Live & Free Coverage of The 2022 NBL1 Championship Season on Kayo Freebies. Join now, no credit card required >
The league has also continued its rapid boom in popularity across Australia and New Zealand, with consistently high attendance and TV audience numbers.
Kestelman said that the world’s “second-best basketball product” can continue to grow domestically, as he dreams of the competition eclipsing some of the traditional sports in the country.
“I’ve always wanted to be the No. 1 summer sport, which was my aim when I first took over the league and we won’t stop there,” Kestelman told News Corp.
“… Cricket is an all-day game or five hours, and the A-League is a great product, but you are talking about something that is hard to compare to the English Premier League.
“I think the quality of the (A-League) product can’t be in the same category as the basketball in this country with where the NBL stands as the second-best league behind the NBA.
“That is no disrespect to them (Football) – that is just factual… to have the second-best basketball product in the world is pretty special.”
The NBL has announced some innovative changes to its playoff structure ahead of the new campaign, with a play-in tournament set to shake up the post-season.
Following in the footsteps of the NBA, the NBL has introduced a play-in tournament which will see teams finished third to sixth compete for two spots in the semi-finals.
The Perth Wildcats created some unwanted history as a club last season as they missed out on the playoffs for the first time in 35 years, but if history repeats they’ll have another chance to chase NBL glory.
“The end of the season will have a new level of importance and intensity, not to mention three new postseason blockbusters,” NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger told the NBL.
“Most importantly, more teams will remain in the championship hunt for longer, meaning more fans will continue to be engaged during what will be a more exhilarating finish to the season.
“The magnitude of these play-in games will be enormous with the fate of some clubs to be determined by do-or-die contests that promise to deliver a thrilling atmosphere.
“The NBA has had great success with its play-in tournament. We studied that model and are confident ours will see similar success.”