DEREK GARCIA WRITES — On August 8th this year, the Australian National Basketball team, nicknamed the Boomers, made history, winning its first medal at the Tokyo Olympics by beating Slovenia, 107-93, for a third-place bronze medal.
Australia’s fantastic run in the Olympics may have felt like the opening of a new world for Australian basketball, but if one had focused on this country the past few years this medal would be seen as just one of many events in its establishment as a basketball epicenter.
The Australian Basketball League (NBL) has expanded at an exponential rate with regard to fan attendance and popularity, thanks to the NBL’s forward thinking management on multiple fronts. Every year since 2016, the NBL’s number of fans has grown, in 2019-2020 hitting record highs- recording an average of almost 866,082 fans for the season, beating the previous year’s record of 714,346 by more than 150,000. This interest was due in large part to the NBL’s introduction of new teams, recruiting processes and promotion campaigns.
The Next Stars program, for example, allows Australian teams to recruit high-level young stars from the international market. In this way, it provides another way for players to forego college and immediately enter pro sports. The program brought in U.S players including LaMelo Ball and R.J Hampton, who leveraged it to later enter the NBA as well as draw attention to basketball in the NBL. This advance in the international market of recruiting has spurred the development of an open border cultural basketball world rooted in Australia.
In addition, the NBL has added new teams such as the South East Melbourne Phoenix in 2019 and the Tasmania Jackjumpers, who were added in 2020, but are set to officially join this 2021-2022 season.
Finally, Australian born players have done phenomenally well outside Australia, specifically, in the NBA, with multiple players from the bronze medal Olympian team playing for NBA ball clubs. NBA Australian players Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum, Josh Green and Matisse Thybulle, now representing Australia in the basketball world, have set a positive standard moving forward.
With more and more young Australian draftees entering the NBA such as Josh Giddey, who was drafted in the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2021, and Josh Green, who was drafted in the first round by the Dallas Mavericks in 2020, the future looks bright for this upcoming generation. Clearly, Australia has established itself as an international basketball power. Things are looking up Down Under!