NBA interest grows in Olympic year

Australia has always had a shine for the NBA since the days when Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Shaquille O’Neal posters were pinned on the bedroom walls of kids from Canberra to Cairns.

But in 2016, the Aussie interest in basketball is experiencing something of a surge, as the nation prepares to back its NBA stars at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this year.

Since the Australian basketball team clinched qualification for the games in August 2015, they have been hyping up their own chances of picking up medals in Brazil. Their home nation has responded with a surge of support for what is surely the strongest Australian national basketball team ever assembled.

Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis has a wealth of talent at his disposal, with Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Cameron Bairstow, Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles all plying their trade in the world’s finest basketball league, the NBA.

Add to that the likes of David Andersen, Ryan Broekhoff, Ben Simmons and Dante Exum, who is currently seeking to rehabilitate his reconstructed knee in time for the Olympics, and you have a squad capable of going all the way in Rio.

The surge in basketball’s popularity is reminiscent of the emergence of other sports games and pastimes that seemed to arrive in our lives out of nowhere and then all of a sudden become parts of modern life that we can’t do without.

The English Premier League was fairly low on the agenda of most Aussie sports fans until the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Tim Cahill started tearing it up for clubs who now have legions of Aussie supporters as a legacy from those times. Who is to say that the success of Bogut, Mills, and Dellavedova won’t inspire a new generation of Australian basketball players, who will make the sport a part of the mainstream Down Under for decades to come.

In the future, turning on the basketball in a bar could become every bit as common as watching the footy while you’re having a beer, or firing up the pokies. The latter is another example of a pastime to have experienced a surge since online destinations like Pokies.com started offering keen gamblers a way to enjoy their favourite slots from the comfort of their own homes.

The success of the Boomers in Rio could have a transformative effect on Australian culture. If they achieve what we all hope, we will have the NBA to thank for it.