Melbourne Streetball Culture

Melbourne's Growing NBA Love Affair

In a city where Aussie Rules football has always reigned supreme, a proud American sporting culture has somehow managed to entrench itself and is showing no sign of disappearing any time soon.

Written by JAKE MICHAELS 19th August, 2019.

The champagne hadn't even been popped in Oakland, nor had the podium been constructed on the Oracle Arena floor when I began weaving my way through a swarm of rowdy Raptors fans. Grown men began embracing, and spilt beer seeped through my shirt, onto my skin, as celebrations of Toronto's maiden NBA title officially got underway.

The sports bar where I had elected to watch Game 6 -- ultimately the decider of the 2019 NBA Finals -- wasn't in Toronto. It wasn't in Oakland, either. Heck, I was 13,000 kilometres away from San Francisco's Bay Area, smack bang in the middle of Melbourne, Australia, a culturally diverse city that has become famous for colourful street art, trams, coffee and, in recent times, overpriced smashed avocado on toast.

It was after making a beeline for the exit and being spat out onto bustling Elizabeth Street during the lunchtime rush hour when I saw something that immediately stopped me in my tracks.

Parked on the side of Melbourne's busiest inner-city road was a 2011 Maranello red Holden Captiva, fitted with custom purple and grey Sacramento Kings seat covers. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks and my morning of basketball viewing had tainted my vision. Surely it must have been the popular and similar-sounding Adventure Kings brand, right? Nope. A closer inspection confirmed it was indeed the NBA franchise from the west coast of the United States.

It has been 68 years since the Kings, or Rochester Royals as they were once upon a time known, won their first and only NBA championship. They've never had a notable Australian on their roster and wouldn't even feature on the podium of the most supported and global California-based NBA franchises. Yet here, in Melbourne, were these car seat covers. Somehow this NBA minnow had reached the other side of the world.

That's when it hit me: Melbourne has truly become a basketball city, and the fresh sporting-cum-fashion culture that goes hand-in-hand is sweeping through at a rapid rate.

Melbourne Streetball Culture & Street Art

IN THE SPRING of 2012, an out-of-contract Chris Goulding inked a deal that would see him join the Melbourne Tigers.

The Tasmanian, who at the time was just 23 and beginning to forge a career in the NBL, had already played in Brisbane, Perth and on the Gold Coast, but Melbourne was noticeably different. Melbourne was, and remains, a city that has a unique love for everything basketball and one that embraces the culture of the sport.

These days, you can't ride the train, take a stroll through the city or even do your weekly grocery shopping run without spotting someone wearing an NBA jersey or cap.

"I don't know if I was taking much notice when I first arrived, but over the last five or so years, basketball's popularity in Melbourne has surged dramatically," Goulding says. "Whether it's wearing your favourite player on the back of a jersey or walking down the street dribbling a basketball, every time you go out, you see it. It's definitely more prevalent than in other Australian cities."

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MSF supports Kuany Kuany Camp

The second annual Kuany Kuany Give Back Camp took place on Saturday April 20 at Eagles Stadium in Werribee. MSF Sports was proud to support Kuany Kuany's camp and be involved in the vision of giving back to the kids who need it the most.

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MSF Sports co-founder, David Coles, said "having been community basketball coaches growing up ourselves, to see Kuany Kuany host his own non-profit camp with all coaches volunteering their time for these kids, it's just great to see. To have the opportunity to offer our support from MSF Sports, we are grateful to be involved with such a great initiative."

Kuany Kuany is a South-Sudanese born Australian whom just completed his second season playing with Cairns in the NBL where he was voted the Player’s Player by his teammates. After attending Melbourne’s St. Kevin’s College, Kuany accepted a scholarship to the University of Chaminade in Hawaii. He graduated 3rd in the school’s all-time scoring list, 2nd in rebounding and was the program’s first ever four-time All-Pacific West Conference selection.

The camp, hosted by Kuany Kuany & his Kuany Kuany Foundation was set up to be a free clinic for boys & girls aged 6-18, with the aim of providing a safe & inclusive environment in which children from all backgrounds can enjoy the game of basketball. The coaches, all of whom volunteered their time were a mix of NBL & NBL1 players, plus some well established coaches & trainers from the industry.

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Kuany’s passion to promote inclusion and diversity clearly shone through as the 90+ participants came from a wide range of backgrounds from all over Melbourne. Participants were given an extensive workout which consisted of 8 different stations focusing on different facets of the game, from shooting to defending, from transition offense scenarios to conditioning & rebounding. Each participant was put through their paces & challenged no matter their age or background in the sport.

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Seeing the smiles & engagement of all participants in the camp was amazing. Whilst scheduled to finish at 5pm, Kuany was still signing autographs & hanging out with campers well beyond 6.30pm, such is his standing in the community. It’s a credit to Kuany & his hard working, humble nature that so many coaches offered their services for free for the day, plus the fact that so many of the kids in attendance didn’t want to go home & just soak up as much time as they possibly could with the ‘boy from Tarneit’.

“Man, just seeing how the kids are engaged, the commitment the coaches have to helping them, and the buy-in from the kids is just truly something special. I remember wanting to come to similar camps when I was a kid but not being able to afford it. I just wanted to provide a platform for ALL kids to come & take part in this great game with no barriers to entry. And a massive thank you to MSF who have supported me & my vision in giving back to these kids.”

Kuany Kuany Give Back Camp Flyer

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Photos by Adam McKay Photography @AdamGlenMcKay