As a current professional basketball player there is nothing more frustrating than getting asked “Is Andrew Gaze playing this year?”
That is not a dig at Andrew, who was my hero growing up and an icon of Australian sport. Without players like Andrew the casual fan would have zero connection left with the game.
However the fact we still get asked this question, is the entire problem with the promotion of the NBL.
The lack of general interest in the game and the lack of media coverage has become a real issue for me. So why has Australian basketball been largely ignored by the media for the past ten years?
The answer was simple. We got what we deserved. In the 90s Australian basketball and the NBL was thriving with 10-15 thousand packing out venues like the Glasshouse and the Tennis Centre.
Sports like AFL football looked upon basketball as a real and serious threat to their top billing. We had a women’s league, were family friendly and enjoyed big crowds.
But what did we do with it? Nothing. Bad decisions were made and as a league we got lazy.
The easy answer is to sit here and say this happened because for some reason we don’t get the media coverage other sports do or because we are privately owned we don’t get the government handouts other sports do. But those are not the reasons.
We have dropped the ball and because of this we have been unable to build new icons, new stars and drawcards. It means most people just look to the past and our failures and fall back on misconceptions about how the game is travelling. This needs to change.
All basketballers should be asking themselves what they are doing to help promote the game they play and love. For basketball to once again capture attention in the mainstream public consciousness, it is up to us to prove to people that we are worth the price of admission and their attention.
In terms of talent, the NBL ranks as one of the top 5 leagues in the world. However we need to be out there in the media and in the community pushing ourselves and our brand. Going to training in the morning and heading home to rest is not going to get it done.
There are a huge number of basketball fans in Australia – the popularity the NBA in the States proves that. And the game still ranks among the highest participation sports in this country. The junior leagues are thriving.
But that desperately needs to be translated into success at NBL level.
There is hope. The NBL is still on free to air television with Channel 10 and One, screening matches on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons.
Rule changes have been put in place to make the game more exciting for the casual fan. Higher scoring and more opportunity for dunks and plays on the rim.
The Melbourne Tigers have introduced new membership options in the forms of 3 and 7 game memberships to become more affordable. Games have been scheduled at Hisense Arena to make getting to a game easier. School programs have been put in place to try to reconnect with the community.
This season, we have opened our doors to fans at training sessions and the media are welcomed into our locker-room after matches this season, just as NBA clubs open their doors to reporters.
Many of these new initiatives have happened since the demerger of the NBL from Basketball Australia. The NBL is now our brand. And it is up to us and the administrators to make ourselves as relevant as possible.
Kevin Bartlett recently responded to my Article which was posted in the AGE last Tuesday. The Basketball community did not take his opinion on the matter as educated or well thought out. In response I was interviewed on The Run Home to try and shed some light on the matter.
heres the link: