Following a massive build up to the opening round of the 2019/20 NBL season, record crowds filed through the turnstiles across the league to set a new be benchmark.
Kick-started by a sell-out crowd of 10,300 fans at Melbourne Arena for the inaugural 'Throwdown" between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix, an impressive 30,850 fans packed venues across Australia according to the NBL.
With the Phoenix making their league debut, their thrilling win against United was not only the largest ever for an NBL team on debut, but the highest on record for the league's opening game of the season. Things only got better for the NBL too, with 12,053 Perth fans flocking to RAC Arena to see the Wildcats unveil their 2018/19 championship banner and then register a come from behind win against United on a Terrico White dagger three.
While opening rounds can often result in lop-sided results as teams come together, round 1 saw fans witness close contests, with every result determined by single digit margins. According to the league, it was the first time since 1988 that the first four games of a season have all been decided by single figures.
With a combination of close games, new team and new marquee and next star players in action, an average of 7,712 fans attended the four games, which was a 10 percent improvement on last season and the highest ever in the NBL's 42-year existence.
It is hard to ignore the build up to the season that is likely to have played a role in a heightened awareness of the NBL too. The Boomers hosted Canada and Team USA on Australian shores, including two record crowds of more than 50,000 fans at Marvel Stadium - the second of which saw Australia defeated the US for the first time in history. They would then go on to narrowly miss out on a first ever medal at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, finishing fourth. Throw in some marquee Next Star signings in the likes of LaMelo Ball (Illawarra) and RJ Hampton (New Zealand) and it was also a perfect storm for the league to capitalise on.
“We were thrilled to see the fans come out in force for the opening round of the 2019-20 Hungry Jack’s NBL season," said NBL Chief Operating Officer Andy Crook in a statement.
"The standard of the NBL has never been higher, both from a basketball and entertainment perspective, and we are delighted to see our fans enjoying what's set to be the biggest season yet.
“Our new broadcast partners SBS and ESPN also enjoyed a strong start to the season with high engagement across all platforms.”
With deals with ESPN and Facebook Watch, coupled with games being broadcast live via SBS via Viceland and On Demand, and NBL TV, there has never been as many options to watch the NBL for fans unable to attend games.
While there was much to like about the opening round in the quality of games and outstanding attendances, the league faced some criticism in relation to the broadcast quality, selection of commentators and the controversial central broadcast hub that has commentators calling off a screen remotely. Thankfully these challenges can all be easily addressed, and with a swift response, the league can continue to go from strength to strength both on and off the court.
With the NBLxNBA games in full swing and the league standard so close, the question is can round two be even bigger?