The NBA has been everywhere, man, during this endless exhibition season. Contests in the United Kingdom were followed by trips to Brazil and China amongst myriad other stops as the NBA and shoe companies conspired to peddle the players that are supposed to be getting into shape and rhythm during the month before the season starts to new or long-time international fans.
One continent, year after year, has strangely been left out of the fun. Australia, which boasts a pretty good claim as offering the NBA’s second-largest batch of fans outside of the United States, has yet to take in an exhibition game between NBA teams, despite several proper facilities that could easily host a game. Aussie center Andrew Bogut, whose Golden State Warriors trekked to China earlier this month, is keen on bringing the game to the country he was raised in.
“The NBA needs to have a game in Australia,” Bogut says with a sort of righteous indignation. “We’ve been to every other continent.”
“Australia is the biggest international supporter of the NBA,” he said. “We were No. 1 international league pass subscriptions. No. 1 in international merchandise sales. In the summer, if you go to the beach, everyone’s wearing NBA tops and NBA hats.”
The NBA has set up shop in Africa, Brazil, China, Germany, Spain, France, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Turkey.
“The English Premiere League has been there,” Bogut said. “The NFL has played a preseason game there. NHL has been there. The Dodgers are coming (in 2014). Everyone but the NBA has been to Australia.”
Thompson notes that Australia, at “just” 23 million in terms of population (as opposed to China’s billion-strong) won’t provide the same marketing opportunities as some other continents would, and he’s right in that regard. This would be more about doing a favor to a country and continent that has been basketball mad for decades.
I started writing about the NBA for a website called OnHoops.com in 1997. Back when you searched “NBA” into your favorite search engine, OnHoops was one six basketball websites that would show up (think about that – a half-dozen, on the entire inter-web) alongside Yahoo’s NBA site, Nando.net, ESPN Sportszone, the Sporting News, and John Hollinger’s Alleyoop.net. CNN/SI and CBS would be soon to join the fray.
Though founded in California, the site was run by two Australians by the names of Matt and Steve. They’d stay up ungodly hours watching whatever games their cable system saw fit to provide, well before the advent of League Pass subscriptions or illegal game feeds. The bootleg, if you could call it that, NBA VHS tape trading community was huge over there, and these guys glommed incessantly over NBA almanacs and whatever other statistical information was available in those nascent NBA internet days.
Matt and Steve were above the fray, but the level of fandom just below those two was typical. Australia adores the NBA in huge numbers, and it’s time for the NBA to throw the country a bone, and take a trip to one of the more gorgeous and compelling countries in the world.
Yes, it’s quite a haul to get down there; but it’s quite a haul to get to China, too. And while NBA players and coaches may not prefer being show ponies for the league in the preseason weeks they need to get in shape and prepare for a long season, at least they’re used to these sorts of hauls. Much more than their predecessors, at least.
Book the flights, Adam Silver.
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