The SportingJournal

NBL must follow same path as A-League

The current A-League season has seen the recruitment of some of the most prestigious players in the world.

Sure, they’re older and maybe a little, past their primes, but look at what they’ve done for the league.

The attention that Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey, in particular, are garnering for the league is astonishing. Sydney FC fixtures are being broadcast live into Italy due to massive local demand to see Del Piero’s games. It is the first time any A-League team has been showcased in full in Europe and consequently is giving the A-League worldwide exposure, as well as increasing localcrowds and membership sales exponentially.

So why is it that the NBL seems to be so far behind the A-League in terms of marketability and popularity? To be honest, the quality of play in both leagues is average when compared to leagues around the world and Australia is not a country where Basketball or  Soccer is loved by all. In spite of this, the A-League has managed to develop its support base much further than the NBL has been able too.

The signings of the 3rd all time  leading Italian goalscorer Del Piero and the famous, yet infamous Heskey, tell us something about the two leagues and this is that the A-League is working significantly harder sign high profile players than the NBL is.

The Melbourne Tigers signing of ex-NBA player Jonny Flynn was definitely a step in the right direction, but the people at Basketball Australia need to start promoting Australia as a place where players can continue their careers. A place where they can flourish. A place where they can show off their skills in a highly professional environment. Heskey and Del Piero have been doing that of late and there is even talk of Heskey rejoining the England national team because of his recent good form.

If the NBL and Basketball Australia worked hard to attract basketball players of that calibre to Australia, the league’s marketability and popularity would sky rocket. Imagine if former NBA superstar and seven time NBA all star Tracy McGrady, who recently signed with a team  in China, had signed with Melbourne. The general public would be going crazy, whether they liked basketball or not. More people would buy memberships, ticket sales would increase and Australian Basketball would have been changed forever.

This of course did not happen and was probably not even pursued or thought of by the NBL, but if scenarios such as this began to eventuate, then a significantly greater  basketballing culture in Australia would ensue. This in turn would increase the game’s marketability and also would hopefully open the floodgates for older NBA players, who wish to end their playing careers on a high, in a competitive and respected world competition.

One such possibility of this happening in the near future is the controversial yet electrifying Allen Iverson. Once upon a time, Iverson tore up the hardwood in the NBA and is still one of the most popular players on earth. He was voted as the fifth best shooting guard of all time by ESPN and while the mere thought that Iverson would come to Australia to play ball is highly unlikely, just imagine if he did? There would be fan adulation and basketball in this country would be turned on its head. Every game would be sold out, the league would gain world exposure and the NBL brand would become more valuable and much easier to market.

If the NBL follows the path of the A-League, it can only be good for the sport and will not only make the league better, but also allow our own local players to gain learn from experienced, talented international players. I can also recall reading an issue of “ALPHA” several years ago in which LeBron James joked about playing for Sydney after he retires from the NBA. More than likely this was a joke from the three time NBA MVP, but just the thought of it is enough to excite me.

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  • dfa

    I agree with this 100%. What’s holding the NBL back is the player point system and the fact that each team has a cap of $1,000,000. Even the A-League has a higher cap than this, therefore allowing them to sign big name international players.

    Patty Mills did wonders for the Tigers, and yet the NBL still can’t seem to see that bringing in players that have played in the NBA will make the league’s popoularity skyrocket!

  • Bball fan

    The clubs can’t afford a higher salary cap at the moment. Blaze folded before season start, Adelaide had dramas with the sale of Adelaide Arena, Crocs are struggling financially. Until the nbl get a solid growth in supporters u can’t increase the cap or there will be more teams disappear. Yes they need to work on their marketing and live game on TV n help but there is a long way to go. The best avenue to start would be bringing some Aussie players back home I.e. Brad Newley cos if aussies don’t wanna come n play at home why would nba players?!

  • Justin Mahon

    Can’t compare the two – the long history of football, its sheer size and scale at the grass roots (greater than the three other eggball codes added together), the relatively huge capitalisation of clubs (including 3 cap free players), the profiles of leading Socceroos and the plentiful supply of cheap, high technical QUALITY players from the developing world (FIFA has 208 members) – puts the A-League in another league (pardon the pun) to the NBL. The capitalisation of Melbourne Victory would be greater than the entire NBL – and at the domestic professional level football is only getting going. I think the NBL has some tremendous qualities, but as a niche sport it should focus on quality over quantity – scope over scale. The NBN will be great for both games as they have, albeit on differing scales, significant export potential.



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