LeBron to LABron – in the biggest off-season news in the NBA, the league’s pre-eminent player, ‘King James’, last week announced that he had agreed to a lucrative deal to play for its most famous franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, it was not the only move of a basketball ‘King’ in the off-season. Australia’s most renowned current player, Andrew Bogut, announced in April that he is retiring from the NBA to sign a two-year deal with the Sydney Kings of the National Basketball League.
Bogut, who was a key piece of the indomitable Golden State Warriors’ first Championship in 2015, stated that it was always his intention to return to Australia for the final chapter of his career.
“In the back of the mind was always not if but when I was going to come back to the NBL," he said.
Only recently desperately struggling to retain any relevance in the packed sporting marketplace, the NBL as a whole has experienced increases in popularity within the last year, with the following figures as of December 2017:
- Crowds were up 5 per cent on the previous season;
- The Perth Wildcats had almost 12,000 members, an NBL record;
- Cumulative audience on television increased 37 per cent;
- Page views on the NBL website were up 98 per cent;
- Average engagement on Facebook was up 65 per cent; and
- Average engagement on Twitter has rose 43 per cent.
Not only has this increased popularity attracted Bogut into returning to Australia, but he recognised that he can play an important role in continuing the growth of the game.
"I want to win games — and sell tickets.” he stated upon his arrival
Interestingly, as part of Bogut’s contract with the Kings, Bogut revealed that he has provision in his contract for part ownership upon his retirement.
"I've got 10 percent waiting for me once I've done playing, which was negotiated and a capacity to buy in for more up to 50 per cent."
The fact that NBL Clubs are privately owned allows for such an arrangement. A similar model is adopted in Australia in the A-League and NRL, with private owners able to inject important funds within clubs for the upkeep of facilities and paying players. It can also be a less stable model, as the financial issues of clubs such as the Gold Coast United and Newcastle Jets (A-League) have shown. Comparatively, the AFL has moved away from private ownership, with the Clubs being member-operated.
Bogut’s return marks an exciting period for basketball in Australia, and his potential long-term involvement in the game through ownership could become very valuable not only for Bogut personally, but for the game itself.
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