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Top five Australian basketball moments of 2017
There's no doubt that 2017 has been a magical year for hoops in Australia. After the successes of 2016, our Aussie ballers continued to build on that momentum and 2017 turned in some absolutely memorable moments.
Cutting the list down to just five moments wasn't an easy task, but here are the The Pick and Roll’s top 5 moments of Australian basketball from the year that was 2017.
5. Perth Wildcats win back-to-back NBL titles
To say the Perth Wildcats have been a constant threat in the NBL since 1987 would be an understatement. In 2017, Perth not only won back-to-back NBL Championships (their third in four years), they also competed in the postseason for the 31st consecutive season.
After finishing the regular season in third, the Wildcats made light work of the Taipans winning their series 2-0. Taking on the Illawarra Hawks in the Grand Final series, the Wildcats made it a 3-0 clean sweep .
Oh, and Bryce Cotton scored a record 45-points in the Championship-clinching game. He would be awarded Grand Finals Series MVP.
The Wildcats are the envy of the rest of the NBL and no team has been able to figure out how to be as consistent as Perth. And of course, because that's just what Perth do, they will finish 2017 on top of the NBL ladder if they get a win later today. Will they make it a three-peat in 2018?
4. Jonah Bolden drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers
Jonah Bolden, the Aussie who played college ball with UCLA for a short period of time before playing in Serbia, was drafted 36th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Bolden joined fellow Aussie Ben Simmons in Philly. Although Bolden is currently playing in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv, his NBA Summer League play proved he has massive potential and a future in the NBA.
Bolden has been playing great for Maccabi Tel Aviv and don't be surprised if we see him suited up alongside Simmons in the NBA next season.
3. Emerging Opals win Gold at World University Games
Just when you thought the future of Aussie hoops couldn't get any brighter, the Emerging Opals won Gold at the World University Games in August.
— Australian Uniroos (@AUSUniroos) August 28, 2017
After beating Chinese Taipei on their home soil in the Semi-Final, in front of a raucous 18,000 fans, the Emerging Opals took care of Japan in the Final to be crowned Champions.
The win over Japan in the Final was far from a walk in the park. Appearing to have the game in hand at three quarter time - holding a 22-point lead - Japan came storming home and cut the deficit to 7 points in the final term. The Australians steadied though and were able to hold off the determined Japanese team and claim an historic Gold medal.
The team of Under-23 players gave a glimpse into the future of Australian basketball, with the likes of Darcee Garbin and Lauren Scherf dominating and taking over games throughout the tournament.
2. NBLxNBA games
What better way to get your league on the worldwide map than to play against the biggest and best league in the world. That's exactly what the NBL did in October this year and the results were stunning.
Whilst the Brisbane Bullets and Sydney Kings put up good fights against the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz respectively, it was Melbourne United who really made the headlines.
Going up against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that boasts All-Stars all over the court - in Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George - Melbourne United showed exactly what Australian hoops is all about; grit, heart and determination.
Proud doesn't even begin to describe what we're feeling right now
— NBL (@NBL) October 8, 2017
Although the Thunder eventually escaped with a hard fought one-point win, 86-85, it would've been hard for Melbourne to represent the NBL any better.
With people doubting the validity of the match-up, the Thunder played all their stars and for plenty of minutes, proving the seriousness of which the team from OKC was taking the match-up. The Thunder's big three of Carmelo Anthony (31 minutes), Paul George (39 minutes), Russell Westbrook (28 minutes) combined for 98 minutes of court-time.
For the NBL, it was a major moment in time and a source of beaming pride for the league that was once an afterthought in the Australian sporting landscape, let alone on the world stage.
1. Ben Simmons proving to be a legitimate Australian sporting superstar
The name Ben Simmons has been on Australian basketball fans minds for many years, but even those sports fans that are not at all interested in basketball can't avoid his name now.
We are quickly running out of superlatives to describe Ben Simmons' rookie season with the 76ers, as he continues to put up eye-catching stat-lines and incredible highlight reel plays.
A post shared by The Pick and Roll (@pickandrollau) on Nov 30, 2017 at 11:43pm PST
Simmons is currently averaging 16.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. In his debut game against the Washington Wizards, Simmons announced himself to the league by putting up an incredible 18/10/5 stat-line. In 33 games, he has recorded four triple-doubles and has scored in double figures all bar three times.
What Ben Simmons is doing for basketball in Australia cannot be underestimated. Kids want to pass like him, dunk like him and do the flat out ridiculous just like him.
His game is unlike any Australian that has come before him and his legend potential is very real. Obviously, he has only played half a season in the NBA, but if he can become the first Australian NBA All-Star and Rookie of the Year, his career will already be unparalleled after just one season.
A post shared by The Pick and Roll (@pickandrollau) on Nov 3, 2017 at 4:04am PDT
Over the next decade, will Simmons be the biggest and most well-known Australian sporting superstar? Only time will tell, but 2017 has certainly belonged to Ben Simmons.
A massive year of hoops in Australia is coming to a close. Here's to an even bigger and better 2018!