NBL set for historic indigenous round
The NBL is planning to introduce an annual indigenous round next season on the back of Illawarra's successful initiative against the Sydney Kings.
The Hawks' indigenous game versus the Kings on Sunday received widespread praise, including global recognition from Australian indigenous NBA star Patty Mills.
The San Antonio Spurs point guard was a vocal supporter of Illawarra's indigenous concept on social media while he posted pictures wearing the Hawks' specially designed singlet.
Mills' comments were backed up by fellow Australian NBA players Joe Ingles and Aron Baynes.
Sydney Kings coach Andrew Gaze also declared he "absolutely loves" the indigenous concept in basketball.
Now the NBL wants the entire league to have an opportunity to celebrate Australian basketball's rich indigenous links.
NBL CEO Jeremy Loeliger said the league plans to converse with all eight franchises to finalise an indigenous round from 2020-2021.
He also lauded Illawarra for setting a powerful precedent with their initiative against the Kings last Sunday.
"We were thrilled by the success of the Illawarra Hawks' Indigenous game over the weekend, and we are actively exploring how we best implement an Indigenous round next season in such a way that it will have the greatest impact," Loeliger said.
"I want to thank and applaud the owner of the Hawks, Simon Stratford, and former NBL Indigenous players including Tyson Demos and Timmy Duggan and the Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service for their initiative in taking this very exciting first step towards an Indigenous Round.
"They showed tremendous leadership to stage a game that was not only embraced by fans, but was also a celebration of the game's Indigenous players and their important contribution to the NBL and Australian basketball.
"Many people including Indigenous players past and present have expressed their desire for it to be expanded into an Indigenous Round during the season and this is something we are working towards.
"It's important we consult with clubs, players, the Indigenous community and Basketball Australia to look at ways we can appropriately acknowledge Indigenous Australia. We want it to be meaningful and impactful."
Loeliger also revealed plans to involve the New Zealand Breakers and their Maori culture in next season's indigenous round.
The Sydney Kings also have an indigenous singlet they'll unveil in their final regular season game against the Cairns Taipans on February 16.
The Kings will fittingly come up against Taipans big man Nate Jawai - a proud indigenous man who was the first Torres Strait Islander in the NBA.
Sydney will team up with the Clontarf Foundation - a not-for-profit organisation that assists in the education and employment of young indigenous men.
Kings interim CEO Paul Kind was involved in the set-up of the indigenous All-Stars concept during his time in the NRL and he says he would love to be involved in a similar initiative in basketball.
"My involvement in the creation of the indigenous All-Stars in 2010 was the single best thing that I did in my 13 years in rugby league," Kind said.
"It made such a significant difference on the lives, mostly of indigenous kids, but also on our players.
"As long as the NBL's is well managed and has meaningful outcomes, then I'd absolutely endorse it."
Kind praised Illawarra for their indigenous round, saying they've set a high standard.
"I thought they did a fantastic job," he said.
"They've laid a great foundation for the rest of the NBL to follow.
"Once we recognised Illawarra were doing their event, we left our focus until after they'd completed their round.
"That was out of respect that it was going to be an important occasion."
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