I’ve been a basketball fan all my life but really got hardcore into the NBA in the U.S. around four years ago. I started religiously attending Phoenix Suns games and have been a season ticket holder for the past three seasons. Moving to Sydney, Australia, this year, one of the things I knew I’d miss the most is Suns games, but thankfully, the National Basketball League (NBL) ignites energy in basketball fans around the country.
Thanks to Derek Rucker — former player for Davidson College in the U.S., a pro baller in Australia for 15 seasons, and current analyst for FOX Sports Australia — and Tim Hudson, head of basketball operations for the Sydney Kings, I attended my first NBL game in Australia when I saw the Kings play their rivals, the Ilawarra Hawks, this past weekend. The game was the second-to-last home game for the Kings, who play at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre. With a capacity of around 4,000, the venue was packed with fervent fans cheering on their team.
There are some subtle differences between the NBA and NBL. Quarters in the NBL are 10 minutes each, and time-outs are taken far less frequently. Halftime and breaks between quarters are also much shorter than the NBA, cutting game time by about 30 minutes. The shorter quarters ensure game play is engaging and fast-paced.
I was so excited to see the Sydney Kings, since they have Josh Childress, who used to play for my beloved Suns.
Childress is one of the biggest stars of the team — and the league, from what I’ve garnered from watching other NBL teams, as well — and it was neat to see him play in the NBL style Rucker calls “somewhat NBA, a little Euro and slightly NCAA.” One of my favorite aspects I’ve noticed with the NBL is the camaraderie among players, who often huddle on court mid-game — there aren’t many times I’ve seen that in the NBA.
I also love the positive spirit permeating the league. The team members high-five their opponents at the end of the game and meet in the middle for one last cheer at the end. Though the game action was highly competitive — I loved the passion of Kings head coach Joe Connelly, whose brother Pat Connelly is the Suns assistant general manager — the overall atmosphere on the court emitted vibes of hard work and support.
I was really delighted by the crowd’s energy during the game. The entire venue stood up until the Kings scored their first basket, and during every cheer and in-game promotion, fans really got into the action. While things are definitely on a smaller scale here, I loved the intimacy and togetherness you experience while at an NBL game.
NBL teams play through February — the schedule started in October, and includes playoffs and a finals competition. For more information on this league I’m so excited to embrace in my new Sydney home, head here.