“Basketball is successful as a product everywhere around the world, so there’s no reason as to why it can’t be in Australia and New Zealand.”
He’s labeled as the competition’s new potential saviour. Larry Kestelman, owner and chairman of the Melbourne United franchise, will step down as chairman in a bold bid to recreate basketball in this country.
Kestelman will inject approximately $6 million into the national competition as he has just received the all clear to take a major stake in the NBL.
He has a clear, yet bold vision to take the crux of the NBL from the pits of demise over the last decade, to a land which hasn’t been seen in basketball for a very long time.
“(In regards to a long term vision, it’s an) Overall statement of creating what will be a professional business of entertainment, with the actual centre arena being the game of basketball.” – Kestelman told Downtown in their podcast with Liam Santamaria and Brett Thomas.
Kestelman has daring pathways in his sights. Further expansion into New Zealand, followed by grazing their options in Asia.
“I think we have to introduce ourselves not just to Australia, but potentially to overseas as well, hoping to attract Asian clubs and clubs in our region.”
Currently, the NBL office is made up of nine staff; something which Kestelman has on his priority list to increase. He will look to build a ‘very strong team’ that includes ‘smart people’ around him.
“It’s all about the investment in people first of all.”
In terms of marketing, planning is in its first stages and will take a cautious approach before placing a huge amount of emphasis on the area. He has emphasised that the NBL’s ‘package’ hasn’t been great in the past, and that this ‘package’ must be improved before they can proceed to advertise it to broadcasters and other media relations.
“Television and general presentation of the sport is completely critical, that is where the number one priority for me lies.”
The league’s contract with media platform Perform, who ran the insufficient NBL TV, has now expired, with Kestelman ensuring that next season’s performance will be of much better quality for consumers. He has also stressed that ‘any media rights deal that you have today, has to have a component of online.’
“It’s such a stats driven sport that you want to know how many rebounds, you want to know more and more information. You want to see it on television or you want to see it on your device and at the same time, you want to be seeing all of the details and stats about what’s going on.”
In more of a external point of view, new clubs wanting to enter the league may not come down to just his interpretation.
“It will come down to where the broadcasters feel there’s an audience for those clubs.”
In saying that, Kestelman did have his own arguments for hopefully entering new teams in Brisbane, Melbourne (yes, he’s all for a second Melbourne team), New Zealand and Tasmania.
“There’s certainly plenty of markets where teams could be viable, but it’s really a combination of finding the right people that are prepared to invest and are passionate about it and are good business people that can run to a level that I expect.”
Finally, an NBA partnership isn’t out of the question, with Kestelman having being able to meet with NBA commissioner Adam Silver not long ago.
“(When meeting with Silver, we could) Plead our case to them and make sure that they give us almost a second chance and re-look at partnering with the NBL.”
Second chance? So there’s been an opportunity in the past and the league ruined it? Hopefully Australia’s new basketball hero knows how to please his new American friends.
With that being said, it seems that Larry Kestelman is not only passionate about his new venture, he has endured a good long thought process and has everyone on side to kickstart this plan into something that will be successful.
Players, coaches, administrative staff and fans all await with excitement hoping this is the moment where national leagues in Australian basketball can be turned around and made into something that can keep up with the biggest leagues in the country.
We have seen other sports prosper with new intervention. Let’s just hope for basketball’s sake that this is our chance.
For the full in-depth interview with Larry Kestelman, head to Downtown, via downtownball.net.