“With the 1st pick in the 2005 NBA draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select Andrew Bogut from Australia.”
With these words, then NBA commissioner David Stern announced the beginning of a new and exciting era for Australian men’s basketball.
Currently there are a record seven Australians playing in the NBA – an incredible figure considering there have only been eight other Australians in NBA history. Outside of the USA, only fierce competitor and top 5 ranked nation France has more current players with nine. Meanwhile, history was recently made when four Australians took to the court in a 2015 regular season match up between the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz. Not bad for a nation still languishing outside the world top ten.
Such amazing development has coincided with a number of significant achievements.
Three Australians in the past two years, Andrew Bogut (now with the Golden State Warriors), Patty Mills and Aron Baynes (both San Antonio Spurs) have won NBA championships.
Bogut’s selection back in 2005 saw him become the first Australian in history to be taken with the number one draft pick.
Dante Exum, an Australian Institute of Sport prodigy, was selected with the 5th pick in the 2014 NBA draft at the age of 18.
Joe Ingles and Cameron Bairstow have locked down roster spots on their respective teams, the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls.
And then there’s Matthew Dellavedova. Commonly known as “Delly” the Australian born and bred Cleveland Cavaliers guard has exceeded all expectations. His perseverance and determination saw him progress from an undrafted rookie to a key role player in the star-studded Cleveland team.
Then the 2015 NBA finals came along.
An unfortunate injury to key teammate Kyrie Irving thrust “Delly” into starting line-up. The country Victorian certainly made the most of his opportunity. A playoff career high 20 points in Game 3 and lock-down defence on league MVP Stephen Curry led to teammate and arguably the world’s best player Lebron James proclaiming, “I love what Delly brings to the team. He’s been great for us.” Certainly not shabby praise for the previously unknown Australian.
And for those that may have thought Australian basketball has reached its peak, think again. Australian 18 year-old Ben Simmons was the recently named the US national high school player of the year, has signed with heavyweight Louisiana State University and is expected to be a top pick in next year’s NBA draft. Not far behind, Australian-Sudanese teenager Thon Maker, who at 18 years of age already stands at 7-foot-1, has attracted interest from some of the top US basketball colleges.
Ultimately, all this success has lead to one question – what does this mean for the Boomers, the Australian men’s basketball team?
By all indications it points to exciting times are ahead. The Boomers, who have placed fourth three times at the Olympic Games will look to go at least one better in 2016. With Bogut stating this is the “best opportunity” for Australia to finally claim that elusive Olympic medal, there are high hopes for the upcoming games.
Although much work will have to be done, a medal in such an arena would re-affirm what is now abundantly clear. Australian basketball is for real.