Australia is known internationally as a sporting country. We produce stars that perform on the world stage, basketball included, and many are household names around the world.
The NBA is undoubtedly going from strength to strength in Australia, but we are still constantly overlooked when it comes to bringing an NBA game to our shores. England, China, Germany, Italy, and Russia, just to name a few, have all had NBA teams compete in their country. Earlier this month, the NBA held an exhibition game in South Africa featuring Team World vs. Team Africa. The game was filled with NBA stars, including Luol Deng, Chris Paul, Kenneth Faried and the Gasol brothers.
Obviously, there are things working against us. Being on the other side of the globe makes it a more physically demanding trip for players and staff (although I'm sure they'd love it once they got here). The fact that the NBA is already so popular here, makes it less of a priority for the NBA. Why would the league invest in such an event, when the NBA is already so popular without a whole of work being put into it?
Here's a list of why we deserve an NBA game Down Under.
1. Record number of Australians in the NBA
These names should be familiar. Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Joe Ingles, Cameron Bairstow, and Aron Baynes all have NBA contracts for the 2015/16 season. Boomers Brock Motum and Ryan Broekhoff participated in the recent Summer League, and Motum received a partially guaranteed offer from the Utah Jazz.
And it's not just those that are already in the NBA that are making noise. The names Ben Simmons, Thon Maker and Isaac Humphries are already on the radar of NBA teams. With Simmons about to enter his college freshman year with LSU (read more about Simmons), after being the top-rated high-school player in 2015, he is a legitimate candidate to be the #1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The fact that three Aussies have won rings in the past two seasons speaks volumes, and shows that they aren't just making up the numbers. Fun fact: 10% of the NBA champions from the last two seasons are Australian - a very decent representation.
2. The NBL is a legitimate proving ground for NBA hopefuls
Whilst the NBL is still struggling for relevance in the Australian sporting landscape, there is no denying that the league is growing. The amount of talent, and the ability of teams to sign impressive imports, has taken the league to a new level.
With James Ennis and Scottie Wilbekin signing NBA contracts after a year in the NBL, it is clear that the NBL is gaining recognition amongst NBA teams and players. The NBL is gradually being seen by NBA hopefuls as a great league to gain professional experience and work on their game away from the spotlight.
The fact that 8-year NBA veteran Josh Childress is re-signing with the Sydney Kings for the upcoming season has generated plenty of excitement for NBL fans.
If bringing out two NBA teams isn't viable, an exhibition game between an NBL All-Star team and a high-profile NBA team would be an excellent treat for Australian basketball fans.
3. Our stadiums cater for huge numbers of fans
Australia has some of the best stadiums in the world, with world-class facilities.
The ideal destination would of course, be Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. Boasting a capacity of over 55,000, the largest indoor stadium in Australia makes it an enticing venue. Not only would this capacity increase with the added expendable seating that would be available with the smaller basketball court, as opposed to an AFL ground, the venue doesn't have a bad seat in the stadium.
4. Athletes of any sport are always well-received in Australia
You need not look any further than Kyrie Irving's trip to Australia in 2013 to see the love he received from fans. During an in-store signing event for Melbourne's boutique sneaker store Kickz101, Irving was mobbed, with fans lining up for hours just to get a glimpse of the superstar. https://twitter.com/KyrieIrving/status/351180711065174017
This Vine posted by Kyrie summed up the situation pretty well.
Obviously the fact that this was a free event helped, but it proved just how NBA star-starved we here in Australia are.
You only have to look at the recent visits from star-studded soccer teams to see that Australian's love for watching sporting stars up close. After 99,382 fans packed into the MCG last month to see Cristiano Ronaldo and his Real Madrid teammates defeat Manchester City, it was made even clearer that if you give Australia the chance of hosting major sporting events, they will be successful.
5. The success of the MLB in Sydney
When the Major League Baseball held their 2013 season-opening game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground, fans flocked to the event. The teams played two games, with the season-opener attracting 38,266 fans, and the second game 38,079.
American sports are gaining more and more exposure Down Under with access to streaming live games (through NBA League Pass, MLB.TV and NFL Game Pass) becoming more and more viable.
6. Australia is the number 1 international market for NBA League Pass
Australia made headlines back in 2013, when NBA Asia shared the fact that Australia had become the top country for International League Pass subscribers outside of the United States.
That fact has not changed, after two years. The NBA confirmed with The Pick and Roll recently, that Australia remains the top international market for NBA League Pass subscribers.
Not only do we love watching the game, we also love to rep our favourite teams and players. It was also confirmed that Australia is the #1 territory outside of North America, when it comes to overall sales from the global NBAStore.com.
Australia, is without a doubt a basketball nation, and more importantly, a nation of passionate NBA fans. The proof is in the pudding, and it is up to the NBA to finally recognise and reward Australians for their love of the league.
It is time. Do we agree that Australia deserves an NBA game?