NBL aims to knock cricket off summer perch

 

Ambitious NBL owner Larry Kestelman is dreaming big ahead of the new season, declaring basketball can overtake cricket to become Australia's most popular summer sport.

And he's promising a reality TV-style promotion of the game's biggest stars to take basketball to the top of the heap.

The NBL on Monday launched its new season, which starts in October, buoyed by increased interest in 2016-17 and a record number of Australians in the NBA.

Speaking at the league's launch in Melbourne, Kestelman made his bold declaration.

"The sleeping giant of Australian sport is awake and we are coming," he said.

"People have forgotten the popularity and how good we are at this sport. We are bloody amazing.

"We are the sport every other sport wants to be.

"We want to be Australia's No.1 summer sport and one of the biggest sports in the country."

Kestelman took control of the ailing competition in 2015 and has invested heavily in promoting the league and sport.

The next step in promoting the NBL, which sits behind both cricket and soccer for summertime pastimes, is building a "deeper engagement" with players.

"It's surprising how little the fans know - not just about their players," he said.

"We liken it a bit to a reality TV show. We're going to tell a lot of stories, reveal a lot of history of the players, hardships, failures.

"We want our fans to get to know their players and just as importantly the other players."

Kestelman has a supporter in Melbourne United and Boomers shooting guard Chris Goulding.

The 28-year-old will spearhead United's hopes of a maiden NBL championship under Kestelman's ownership, praising the businessman for his efforts to promote the sport.

"What we've done is jump from obscurity to being back on the landscape in two years thanks to the team at the NBL," he said.

"I'm excited about it."

The league will be screened on Fox Sports, with Kestelman guaranteeing a free-to-air TV deal would be struck before the season tips off on October 5.

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