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NBL: Bullets return continues major resurgence under Kestelman
After a number of false starts in recent years, the NBL has undergone a remarkable revival under Larry Kestelman this off-season.
There have been deals with Chemist Warehouse, Champion and Virgin Australia, amongst many others, while the pinnacle of the off-season announcements was undoubtedly the television rights deal with Fox Sports which will see every game shown live on pay TV.
Tweaks to the fixtures also means there will be basketball on every day of the week except for Monday and Tuesday, which was something that needed to be done in order to secure a deal of the caliber of the one now held with Fox Sports.
It seems the league has done no wrong since Kestelman took over. And now, the Brisbane Bullets have been announced as the ninth NBL franchise for the 2016/17 season.
In recent seasons, there has been a certain apprehension in growing the league as some of the existing franchises, and in fact the league itself, struggled for long-term stability.
Right now, it looks as though those struggles may be over, as Kestelman takes the NBL under his wing in the same way that Frank Lowy did with the A-League.
Soccer had always been relatively popular in Australia, but the national league was an utter mess until the NSL folded and the A-League was founded.
Basketball too has long been a popular sport down under, but likewise the NBL was struggling to keep its head above water.
Over the past three or four years, an injection of incredible talent on the court has helped lay the foundations for the league to grow, but the NBL had failed to take full advantage of the product.
Enter Kestelman, who like Lowy has the passion for the sport and the money to inject.
First, the businessman was behind the rebranding of the Melbourne Tigers to Melbourne United and the subsequent growth of that club, before going to the league with a business plan and getting to work on the bigger picture.
The cynics will say that money talks, and they would be right – financial security is a major part of any business or franchise.
However, people like Kestelman and Lowy simply want their beloved sports to flourish.
First and foremost, they are fans of their chosen sport like so many others around the country, but they are equipped with the money and the business nous to help.
The Brisbane Bullets were a major part of why the league was so great throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, and unfortunately they were also a major reason why the NBL began to struggle a few years later.
The Bullets are set to return in 2015/16, complete with a new logo
They weren’t the only team to fall, but being such a big club it meant that plenty of fans lost interest in the competition once they folded.
Now with sponsors and a major television deal secured, talent levels in the league at an all-time high and Australian basketball, both locally and overseas, looking as good as it has for 20 years, it is the perfect time to inject one of the most beloved and popular franchises in history back into the fray.
The Bullets could be instantly competitive and perhaps even successful in 2016/17 given how much local and international talent there now is willing to come to Australia to play, and that is something that perhaps wouldn’t have been the case five years ago.
There is always going to be room for the league to grow and improve, and there have been a number of false dawns in recent seasons where the pre-season hype exceeded the actualities of the season.
Now, with Kestelman at the helm, all that looks to have changed.
Things are looking up across the board for the league and it seems as though every measure has been taken to ensure success this time around.
In just over two weeks, the 2015/16 NBL season will tip-off on a Wednesday night and basketball will be back in a big way, five days a week and with exposure to the masses that hasn’t been seen for a number of years.
After an incredible off-season that couldn’t have gone much better for the league, all that’s left to do is for the players to hit the floor and continue the remarkable resurgence of the game in Australia.