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.

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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.”

Click to Continue Reading on ESPN.com…

 

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Prahran Summer Jam co-founders Daniel Ella and Eamon Larman-Ripon say the sport of basketball and its culture had to be celebrated in Melbourne. DAN HALL

 

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Source: MELBOURNE'S GROWING NBA LOVE AFFAIR | 19 AUGUST 2019 | WRITTEN BY JAKE MICHAELS FOR ESPN : http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/27376960/melbourne-growing-nba-love-affair
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